As the world embraces the benefits and science surrounding cannabis based treatments, Tennessee patients look to our General Assembly with the hope that they, too, could utilize the medicinal properties in the chemicals in cannabis. Chairman Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) has filed The Clinical Cannabis Authorization and Research Act which provides such a pathway for Tennesseans. The Act would allow Tennesseans, under medical direction, to participate in a statewide clinical cannabis program where the foundation is formed by medical research and patient safety.
From its seeds, to the whole plant, to the chemicals extracted from the plant, cannabis has been utilized for medicinal purposes for centuries amongst various cultures. The World Health Organization referenced the evidence based medical research available on cannabis to state that cannabis does, in fact, have medicinal value, and recommended removing the restrictive classification of cannabis in order to promote more research and development of cannabis based treatments. Today, over two thirds of the states in America recognize the clinical value of cannabis and have exerted their 10th Amendment rights to help patients by providing them an alternative to the black market. Yet, Tennessee continues to languish in draconian policy by denying Tennesseans the ability to participate in research and development of cannabis based treatments, as well as prohibiting patients from their right to determine their own health care decisions. The Clinical Cannabis Authorization and Research Act looks to change all that.
“The World Health Organization, Federal judges, and a multitude of scientists, researchers, and medical professionals, to name a few, have opined about the medicinal value of the chemicals in cannabis,” stated Terry. “Unfortunately, outdated laws and unconstitutional treaties relying on erroneous information brought forth a prohibition of cannabis on all uses, including medical treatments and research. States are correcting this injustice across the nation and standing up for patients. It’s time Tennessee does so, as well.”
Tennessee is currently ranked third in the nation in an illicit marijuana market behind California and Kentucky. Much of the black market is generated by legitimate patients who, in looking for alternative treatments for things like chronic pain or other debilitating diseases, put their lives and livelihood at risk in search of relief. Other Tennessee patients, who could benefit, but do not go to the black market, either continue to suffer or look for relief in another state. The bill, as it is drafted, decriminalizes patients by offering a clinical pathway whereby patients can enroll in a clinical cannabis program that includes research and use of non-smokable cannabis based modalities under medical supervision. Once passed, having a safe alternative for patients should decrease the demand on the black market.
“Criminal justice reform is a big issue coming from the administration and on the national level. It is my belief that most elected officials do not want to criminalize patients, and this bill is a positive step towards reforming an archaic and cruel system that harms patients,” explained Terry. “If we, as a state, are going to be serious about criminal justice reform, we need to ensure that we are sending criminals to jail and not patients.”
The Clinical Cannabis Authorization and Research Act authorizes medical treatments in the form of oils, pills, breathing treatments, patches, creams, and known medical modalities. It explicitly prohibits recreational forms of cannabis including smoking, vaping, candies, or anything marketed towards children. Cannabis flower, which is the portion of the plant most known for being smokable, is only allowed for utilization in extracting the chemicals to make the medicines. The bill does not allow for the raw flower to be sold.
In addition to focusing on extract only medical modalities, the bill bases its safety and decriminalization regulations on current science and criminal statutes. Dosage and possession monthly limits of non-flower THC containing medical modalities mirror those of known medical standards and Tennessee statutes. One half ounce of cannabis flower on the black market may contain up to 2800 mg of THC which correlates to some off-label uses of lab made THC medicines. If purchased on the street, that amount of flower may last a patient a month, but it, also, carries the risk of a simple possession charge which is a Class A misdemeanor. In essence, the bill decriminalizes the possession of non-smokable, non-recreational cannabis based medicines for patients that enter the medical and research based program.
“Having spoken with many legislators including legislators from other states that have reformed medical cannabis, patients, medical providers, and researching the science, I’m convinced that we have developed a program that is beneficial for Tennessee patients and can pass our General Assembly,” concluded Terry.
HB 2454 is scheduled to be presented on Tuesday, March 3 in the Facilities, Licensure, and Regulations Committee.