published Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Rep. Mike Carter looking at limited Tennessee medical cannabis bill

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    Tennessee state Rep. Mike Carter, a Republican from Ooltewah, said he is looking into introducing a bill that would allow a cannabis-derived oil be used in the state for treatment of a certain, severe form of epilepsy.

NASHVILLE — State Rep. Mike Carter said he is continuing to explore introducing legislation amending Tennessee's strict anti-marijuana laws to allow possession of a cannabis-derived oil seemingly effective in treating a rare form of epilepsy.

"I am considering and looking at filing a bill that allows a parent to have cannabidiol oils in their possession for the use with a person of intractable seizures as determined by a doctor," the Ooltewah Republican and former judge said. "And you can't get high on it."

Top House Republican leaders say they're open to considering such a bill.

The lawmaker opposes a more comprehensive medical marijuana law introduced by Democratic state Rep. Sherry Jones, of Nashville.

"This is not medical marijuana," Carter said of his approach.

Cannabidiol oil comes from specially cross-bred marijuana plants that advocates say contain only minuscule amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC, which delivers the plant's "high."

The cannabidiol is produced in Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal, and distributed at low cost by the Colorado-based nonprofit group Realm of Caring. But Carter said there is a problem: It still runs afoul of federal laws that prohibit cannabis products from crossing state lines.

Carter said he might introduce a separate resolution urging President Barack Obama to allow interstate transport of low-THC cannabidiol. Whether that will move the president is anyone's guess, he said.

The local lawmaker said he has been moved by the plight of 2-year-old Piper Koozer, formerly of Ooltewah.

The toddler suffers from Aicardi syndrome and was having 200 to 300 seizures daily. Her desperate parents, Justin and Annie Koozer, moved the family to Denver last year to get access to cannabidiol.

The Koozers say it's reduced Piper's seizures to a fraction of what they were. Other parents whose children have similar epilepsy-related problems swear by it as well.

Carter said he has spoken with Joel Stanley, one of six Colorado brothers who have cross-bed pot to diminish the highs and boost its effectiveness in easing seizures, migraines and other ailments.

The Stanleys started Realm of Caring. Carter said Joel Stanley told him they're testing industrial hemp plants. He said Stanley told him it's possible to export hemp-derived oils across state lines without violating federal law.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, of Franklin, said several Middle Tennessee parents have children with seizure problems and he's open to taking a look at Carter's approach.

But don't confuse that with support of a broader medical marijuana bill, Casada said.

"There's other drugs for pain relief and vomiting and those things," Casada said. "For this (certain types of seizures) this is the only drug that works. It's worth exploring."

Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently have some variant of laws permitting medical marijuana.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she's talked to a "number of constituents" and others supporting Jones' bill, but she's worried it covers too many conditions.

"I'm a little concerned that the number of diseases that she's looking at this being applied to may be too broad as we start out on this," Harwell said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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