Two area lawmakers sponsor Tennessee medical marijuana bill

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, left, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, are sponsoring legislation to regulate medical marijuana in Tennessee.

Two area lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to regulate medical marijuana in Tennessee.

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and Dayton Republican Rep. Ron Travis, said in a news release their proposal would apply to qualified patients with certain specific diagnoses. They could obtain medical cards and buy products from companies licensed by Tennessee and owned by Tennesseans to cultivate, process and dispense cannabis.

"I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills," Bowling said in the release. "Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans. Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use."

She said the bill differs from legislation proposed in previous years.

"I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted," Bowling said. "The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations."

Travis said he has studied medical cannabis products available in other states and is concerned that those are not available to people in Tennessee suffering from conditions such as epilepsy or cancer.

"The number of people we could help could be astounding," Travis said. "I look forward to working with Senator Bowling, the Senate sponsor, to do our due-diligence on this very important bill. It is of the utmost importance for Tennessee to stay at the forefront of serving our citizens, new industry and technology."

The Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association endorses the Bowling-Travis bill, the release states.

The trade group said 33 states have approved medical cannabis programs and U.S. sales of those products was above $3.5 billion last year.

The release said polling shows support for medical cannabis is currently at 80 percent in Tennessee.

"This bill represents a careful look at what the other states have struggled with so we could focus on the successes and avoid repeating any failures" associatoin Executive Director Glenn Anderson said in the release. "We look forward to working with the legislature to pass a bill that provides the relief patients need."