Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill that would slightly expand the state’s restrictive medical marijuana program and establish a commission to look at broader legalization for medical purposes.

The measure would add to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis products to include Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancer, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell disease. Under Tennessee’s current medical marijuana laws, only patients with intractable seizures are permitted to use medical marijuana, which is limited to products containing no more than 0.9 percent THC, such as CBD oil. Under federal law, cannabis plants with THC amounts of 0.3 percent or lower are considered hemp, which is legal.

The measure would also create a nine-member committee tasked with studying federal and state cannabis laws to inform potential legislation for a full medical marijuana program in Tennessee.

The commission would “serve as a resource for the study of federal and state laws regarding medical cannabis and the preparation of legislation to establish an effective, patient-focused medical cannabis program in this state upon the rescheduling or descheduling of marijuana from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act,” the measure – SB 118 – reads.

One of the bill’s provisions, however, states that such a program in Tennessee is conditional on Congress federally rescheduling the plant to a less restrictive classification. The commission’s report is due by January, 2022.

The legislation represents a compromise between marijuana reform advocates and opponents, with more comprehensive medical marijuana bills rejected in committees earlier this session. The final bill passed the Senate in a 19-12 vote, with the House approving it 74-17 the following day. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee who has indicated he would sign the compromise measure into law but remains opposed to broader medical cannabis legalization.

For now, much of the proposed legislation’s provisions remain theoretical as although Tennessee legalized medical marijuana in a limited form in 2015, it’s still not possible to legally buy medical cannabis products at state-run dispensaries. Tennessee’s medical marijuana law contained no provisions detailing how patients could legally access their medicine. As such, the legislation achieves little more than extending legal protections to patients with the new qualifying conditions who use non-intoxicating medical cannabis products likely sourced from out-of-state.


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