NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill that would allow for medical marijuana possession for certain Tennesseans passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week in a 5-3 vote with one abstaining.
Senate Bill 667 would allow Tennesseans who have a debilitating disease and note from their doctor to possess a 30-day supply of medical marijuana that has been obtained from a licensed medical dispensary.
Even if passed, the bill does not allow for marijuana farming or sales in Tennessee, so patients who qualify would have to travel out of state to purchase medical marijuana. The bill also states the medical marijuana must be in its original packaging and can not be in a form that is smoked or inhaled as a vapor.
Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, who is co-sponsoring the bill, said Tennessee has fallen behind the rest of the nation on marijuana reform.
"For the first time, the Judiciary Committee has said cancer patients and people who are sick should have access to marijuana," Sen. Robinson said. "This bill isn’t perfect and it doesn’t go far enough to correct past injustices, but it’s a step forward at a time we desperately need progress."
House Speaker Cameron Sexton told NewsChannel 5 there may be some amendments still added to it - and the bill may move into a pilot program to collect data, have a commission and evaluate it. If that happens, he says he's on board.
"A pilot would be you have something designed for three to five years where you can do it truly for medical necessity based on certain diagnoses and see how it works. And so if you're thinking the federal government is going to open up medical marijuana, then we need to be prepared to know what we need to do if that happens and having a pilot program for just medical would be very beneficial for us down the road.," Sexton said.
Sexton said lawmakers are also watching what other states are doing so they are prepared here in Tennessee if there is a change on the federal level. However, Senate leaders have recently said they would oppose any medical marijuana measure, as long as the Drug Enforcement Administration keeps it as a Schedule I substance.