Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, sponsored the legislation called the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018 that would allow patients with certain conditions access to oil-based products such as pills or lotions, while restricting access to raw cannabis, also known as marijuana.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved the measure Tuesday on a 4-3 vote, with the tiebreaking vote coming from House Speaker Beth Harwell. The bill will head to the full House Criminal Justice Committee, while the Senate version of the bill is assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
Faison said the legislation is an attempt to introduce safe alternatives to opioids and other drugs, while it allows patients more freedom to choose their own type of treatment.
The bill would allow the oil-based marijuana products for patients with cancer, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, severe arthritis, Crohn’s disease, schizophrenia and more.
Several speakers argued both sides of the issue Tuesday, including Ashe, who said his critique of the legislation comes from a law enforcement standpoint.
“It’s really quite frustrating, lately, when we may be down the hall, and somebody’s asking us to enforce one federal law, and then we get asked on the other side to turn a blind eye to this federal law. It’s really perplexing, quite frankly, for law enforcement in this state,” Ashe said.
Twenty-nine other states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, although it is still illegal under federal law.
“There’s not a sheriff in this state who doesn’t want to see children get well. Our position is not about the medical side, and the sheriffs in this state are not going to practice medicine, but we are going to enforce the law,” he said.
Ashe said law enforcement officials would need guidelines from legislators to accurately enforce laws.
The bill would also create a commission, composed of doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement officials, educators and patient advocates, to provide oversight and accountability for the industry. The commission would issue registration cards to qualifying patients and more.
The cards would contain technology that has real-time tracking with chips and card readers similar to the controlled substance monitoring database used by the Department of Health, but with real-time point-of-sale application.
The card readers would allow law enforcement to see when, where and how much cannabis the patient was allowed to purchase. Upon meeting the dosage per month, that card could not be used again.
Criminal offenses would apply for misuse and abuse of the card.
The governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker would appoint the nine-member commission, which would be funded by license and application fees.