NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Opponents of the latest effort to legalize medical marijuana cited a Colorado group dedicated to stopping legalization in other states.
Despite efforts to discredit the benefits of medical marijuana legalization, the latest bill in the state passed through its first committee, Tuesday.
House Bill 2641 would allow people with certain conditions to get medication from other states. Currently in Tennessee, those people can obtain a weak cannabis oil that contains up to 0.9% THC.
However, for the sickest patients, a stronger version is preferred.
Rep. Bryan Terry, a Murfreesboro Republican and doctor, brought the bill.
"Some patients need more than the 0.9% oil. As long as they have a written certification that they have one of those diseases and they get into the registry, if they come back and they're in possession of it, under 300 mg, they're not going to be prosecuted," said Rep. Terry.
Medical marijuana legalization has been an effort every year for the better part of a decade. Each year the measures fail after hours of debate from people for and against the idea.
Law enforcement, including representatives from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, speak about their fears of increased drug trafficking or DUI and traffic-related deaths.
Opponents often reference data from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded group that presents Colorado's legalization of marijuana in a negative light. They cite increased traffic deaths and DUIs linked to cannabis in the past decade. Though, in that same time period, the population of the state increased by 750,000.
One speaker said she was a former investigator for the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. Jan Beyer said that through her experience she had never met someone who benefited medically from the plant.
"They may say that; I have not seen it in my experience with talking to the community," said Beyer. "I have not talked to anyone who has said it really benefited."
Testimony from the TBI brought some sharp criticism from two lawmakers on the health subcommittee, Tuesday.
"We've seen 41 documented non-severe overdoses in the state of Tennessee or severe medical reactions requiring that patient or those patients to be transported to the hospital," said Tommy Farmer, a special agent with the TBI.
The TBI went on to say they felt allowing medical marijuana into the state was opening up a dangerous avenue to approve other medication, such as LSD or Psilocybin mushrooms.
Rep. Darren Jernigan of Old Hickory said law enforcement was missing the point.
"Our intent is not to go recreational and everybody has drugs and spread all over the state," said Jernigan. "Opioids is much worse. Much worse. The intent for this is for people who are suffering."