NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A state commission will soon give the legislature a recommendation on how to get patients medical cannabis.
The Medical Cannabis Commission is tasked with studying the drug. They've heard from people who are advocates for legalization and also law enforcement with concerns about the potential impact.
The road to legal medical cannabis has proven complicated in Tennessee.
Over the past five years, time and again legislation has failed in committees at the state level.
Friday, the commission heard from the state highway patrol and the TBI crime lab.
"You can take prescription drugs, things like Xanax or Valium where you should not be driving a motor vehicle, you can take over the counter drugs like Benadryl and not be safe to operate a motor vehicle. Same thing [is] true for cannabis," said Mike Lyttle, Assistant Director of the TBI Forensic Division.
Law enforcement often points to places like Colorado to show the impact of legalization.
For example, DUI related marijuana arrests went up since the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.
But, at the same time, the state increased the number of law enforcement officers trained to identify such crime.
Since legalization, the number of marijuana related arrests has gone down 70%, which isn't surprising.
Medical cannabis legalization is on a quick pace nationwide.
These graphics show the progression through the past 20 years.
Colorado had medical cannabis all the way back in 2000.
Then, in 2012, the progression of other states joining in, plus Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational cannabis.
Then in 2020, most states had legalized medical cannabis and all states but two had CBD oil.
The issue in Tennessee is continually advocated by residents who want treatment, including David Hairston of Safe Access Tennessee.
"It's not possible to put that genie back in the bottle with the widespread availability of cannabis either as a medicine or a recreational drug," said Hairston. "We need to find a graceful way for law enforcement to exit that and for us to protect the patients in Tennessee which is what we should've been doing all along."
The Medical Cannabis Commission talks included how to get patients who want to try the drug a way to get it from nearby states who have already legalized it.
They'll make a recommendation to the state, but with so much effort already made in the past, it's unclear what will happen.