Although previous attempts by advocates to introduce medical marijuana to Tennessee residents have failed, two state lawmakers are open to finding a common ground for the sake of having some form of medical marijuana legalized. State Senator Steve Dickerson and Representative Jeremy Faison have proposed the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018, a bill that still prohibits the smoking of traditional marijuana plants as well as edibles but will legalize oil-based marijuana products for patients that possess a qualifying health condition.

Senator Dickerson believes that at least some form of marijuana should be available to the residents of the state for medicinal purposes. “Now is the time for the General Assembly to embrace thoughtful, medically responsible legislation to help Tennessee’s sickest residents,” said Dickerson.

Those who support the bill are optimistic to change the outlook of the plant by those who oppose it from an illegal drug to a practical form of medication. According to Representative Faison, oils are significantly harder to misuse than traditional dried marijuana. Faison added that those who produce the oils can isolate the substances that make marijuana effective and patients could choose cannabidiol (CBD oil), which does not possess the properties that would get users high.

Representative Faison believes giving the state’s residents the option to what is regarded can be a safer alternative than other medications, specifically painkillers that are overprescribed and responsible for the countries opioid epidemic.

“Some of our sickest Tennesseans desperately want the freedom to choose what is best for their own health, and they want to be able to make that decision with their doctor,” said Faison. “Now is the time for a safe and healthy alternative to opiates, psychotropics and anti-inflammatories.”

If the bill is passed, it would give patients access to a medical card that possesses qualifying illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, PTSD, Alzheimer’s Disease, severe arthritis, Chron’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, amongst others.

Although both lawmakers consider the bill a compromise, an MMJ advocate does not believe that medicinal marijuana should be limited to one form or another. Bernie Ellis explained that vaporizing marijuana is not only the safest but the most effective way to treat illnesses.

“The safest, most effective and best-titrated way to use medical cannabis is to inhale the vapors of whole plant cannabis using a vaporizer,” said Ellis. “The patient obtains relief within ten seconds and it seldom takes more than a few inhalations to obtain the desired relief. Cannabis oils, if ingested, take 30-60 minutes for the patient to feel any effect, which often results in patients using more than they need to, increasing the likelihood that they will experience unpleasant side effects (nausea, disorientation) of overuse.”

The Medical Cannabis Only Act is an important step for Tennessee in terms of marijuana. Although the bill may seem flawed to some, it is a small victory for a state that has been far behind the times regarding legalizing marijuana. Remember, a win no matter how small is still a win.

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