This story was updated March 21, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.
NASHVILLE — The sponsor of a bill to allow Tennesseans' use of medical cannabis performed major surgery on the legislation Wednesday, discarding a number of controversial provisions in an effort to soften opposition.
"What I'm trying to do is decriminalize it if you have one of the 15 qualifying [medical] conditions," Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, told House Criminal Justice Committee members Wednesday.
The four-page amendment, approved by the panel, creates an exception in existing law to allow residents suffering from diseases or conditions ranging from cancer to chronic pain to be immune from arrest and prosecution provided they have proof of a legal order or recommendation by a doctor in a note saying the patient is likely to benefit.
It was a fallback from the original 72-page bill that created a program in which eligible patients would have had an electronic registration card from state authorities. It also required doctors who wished to participate to have a state-issued license.
Marijuana would have to be in the form of an ointment, lotion, transdermal patch, suppository, nasal spray, tincture, oil or capsule. Patients could not possess more than a month's supply. And tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — could not exceed set amounts.
But the bill continued to be fiercely debated as Dr. Michael Warren, the state Health Department's deputy commissioner for population health, and Chief Medical Officer David Ragan questioned many proponents' claims regarding marijuana's positive effect on many medical conditions.
Warren said the "current state of the medical evidence does not support the broad categories that are in the bill."
Committee members ran out of their allotted time and delayed the measure until next week.
"They're stuck in reefer madness and they're split in their mind," Faison said of opponents. "They know this has got to happen and they don't want it to happen they're hiding behind the federal government right now, because they don't want to do the right thing for sick Tennesseans."
Faison later noted, "This has all become a political mumbo jumbo."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.
Diseases and ailments outlined in the amendment are:
- HIV or AIDS
- Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Alzheimer's disease
- Severe arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Sickle-cell anemia
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition with a confirmation of diagnosis or treatment including:
* Cachexia or wasting syndrome
* Peripheral neuropathy
* Severe chronic pain
* Severe chronic pain
* Severe nausea
* Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy