TN lawmaker believes medical marijuana bill will pass next year, help combat opioid crisis


A new medical marijuana bill will be proposed in the 2019 legislative session. Its co-sponsor believes the bill has a better chance of passing than in years past. 

State Senator Dr. Steve Dickerson has co-sponsored five medical marijuana bills in the Tennessee legislature. He says this new bill has a better chance at passing, in part because of Governor-Elect Bill Lee. 

Lee has expressed some concern about medical marijuana but also, appears to be open to the prospect. 

“For me, the data is not substantive enough to show that medical marijuana is the right approach right now,” Lee said in News 2’s Governor’s debate with Karl Dean. “But if the people of Tennessee brought that and the data proved it, I would consider signing that bill if it passed.” 

Sen. Dr. Dickerson says medical marijuana has a better chance of passing under Lee’s leadership. 

“I believe when we present him with the facts and the support for this in Tennessee continues to grow, I’m optimistic we’ll be able to pass a bill he can be comfortable within the near future,” Dickerson told News 2.  

The new bill would legalize various forms of non-smokable medical marijuana, including those you ingest or vaporize. There would be versions with and without THC. 

There would also be specifications for who could have access to medical marijuana and when and how they would be able to get it.  

“While our bill has evolved, I think public perception, the perception in the general assembly and the science have evolved even more quickly,” said Dickerson.  

He believes since most states allow some form of medical marijuana, Tennessee could be next.  

Dickerson also believes that the drug could help combat the opioid crisis. He became interested in medical marijuana when some of his patients said it worked better than opioids. 

“I’ve had so many patients in my own practice who felt that the quality of pain control was so much better with cannabis than with opiates that I became interested in this not because of my legislative experience but because of my medical practice,” he said. 

He says medical marijuana better manages pain than opioids for many patients.  

“I believe that cannabis can play a role in blunting some of the demands for opiates in our state,” said Dickerson. 

Dickerson said he if and co-sponsor Bryan Terry do not pass the bill next year, they will bring it back for 2020.

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