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NASHVILLE -- Efforts to legalize medical marijuana are dead for the year in the Tennessee Legislature after the main Senate sponsor said he was delaying the effort until 2020.

Sen. Steve Dickerson, a physician, announced the decision as the Senate Health and Welfare Committee got underway Wednesday afternoon. 

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The House sponsor, Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, returned his companion's bill to the House clerk's desk.

Prospects for the bill's passage were dim.

Dickerson and Terry's legislation would have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, creating a highly regulated three-tier system of growers, processors and licensed dispensaries with pharmacists on staff. 

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But the effort ran into opposition from top state and local law enforcement officials who claimed the state would lose millions of dollars in federal grants. 

Bill proponents, however, questioned the assertions, challenging the officials to name a single one of the 
34 states which have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs which have lost federal law enforcement funding.

Bill cosponsors included Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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