published Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Medical marijuana bill fails, but Tennessee may explore other options

NASHVILLE -- While a bill legalizing medical marijuana died in the House on Tuesday, a bill by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, creating a limited study of the effectiveness of cannabis oil on intractable seizures cleared its first hurdle.

House Health Subcommittee members voted down the medical marijuana bill 6-2.

But the separate Carter measure authorizing a four-year study to determine if cannabidiol oil indeed works on some types of seizures passed on a voice vote.

"I want the state of Tennessee to empirically determine whether it works or does not work," Carter told the panel.

He said pot would be grown by a Tennessee university and cross-bred to produrce plants that contain only minuscule amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC, which delivers the plant's "high" to users.

"You can drink a bathtub of it and not receive any kind of high from it," Carter said.

The bill would allow transfer of the oil within the state if used as part of a clinical research study on its effectiveness in treating intractable seizures.

Such studies could only take place if supervised by practicing physicians at a hospital or clinic affiliated with a university which has a college of medicine. Doctors from throughout the state could refer certain seizure patients to the study.

He said he is responding to calls from parents of children with "horrible, debilitating seizures" who are "being told this works."

"I want to know if it does," he said.

Breeding the plants in Tennessee to eliminate most of their THC punch will take about a year, estimated Carter, noting federal law prohibits transfers of the plants or oil from other states like Colorado.

The medical study would take three years under the bill.

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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