The issue of medical marijuana has become a recent topic of discussion within the Tennessee state legislature. To the surprise of many, conservative lawmakers have begun to introduce legislation to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Most notably, state Sen. Steve Dickerson has introduced legislation aimed at legalizing low THC marijuana oil for people with debilitating conditions.
The bill, HB 1284/SB 1248, has received praise from both sides of the aisle, and is receiving very little resistance in the legislature at this time. Despite its limitations, even marijuana advocates rallied behind the bill. “It’s certainly a positive,” said Murfreesboro attorney and managing member of TennCanGrow, Ted LaRoche. “It’s the first indication that decision makers of Tennessee are listening to their sponsors.”
Sadly, for LaRoche, Tennessee’s patients, and the marijuana industry, the legislation’s sponsors began to sing a different tune.
Last week the long awaited bill finally made it to the House floor, and like a product you buy off of TV, it was very different from what was advertised. According to NBC News, the latest draft of the bill contains its fair share of impossible provisions and untenable amendments.
For example, the law would require anyone who was a registered medical marijuana patient to surrender their driver’s license. It would also be a crime to use medical marijuana within the line of sight of someone under the age of 18; because there is nothing more traumatizing than watching someone use medical marijuana.
Not to just single out the terminally ill, legislators also left a whole slew of rules and fees to stick it in the eye of entrepreneurs and investors. To start, there is a $50,000 non-refundable application fee for would be marijuana providers. If you happen to be one of the lucky six applicants chosen, you are then required to keep $1 million in escrow at all times and a $5 million performance bond.
If you are a little perplexed as to how so many people can be caught off guard by this mess of a bill, the bill is a bit confusing. Dickerson introduced the bill so late into the legislative session that it was introduced as an amendment to an already existing bill.
Consequently, you will have a hard time finding the precise text of the bill, especially since the website for the Tennessee legislature does not currently provide a copy of the updated bill.
When it comes to marijuana reform, something is typically better than nothing. With that in mind, you really have to hand it to Tennessee’s lawmakers for crafting quite possibly the worst piece of marijuana legislation in the country; a bill so bad that even the legislature’s few marijuana supporters don’t want to vote for it.
“I want something to pass. I really do,” Rep. Sherry Jones told The Leaf-Chronicle. “I think of the people texting me and calling me, wondering if this was it, and then they get this. How can they give up their driver’s licenses with everything else they’re going through if they’re a cancer patient or suffering some other severe illness?”
It is hard not to watch what is going on in the Tennessee legislature and not feel cynical about what is happening behind closed doors. While lawmakers pat themselves on the back and talk about how their legislation will help “the neediest of Tennesseans,” the actual patients will suffer in order to make their leaders look bipartisan.
There is always a scant hope of the bill changing before it goes to a final vote, but don’t count on it. If you are waiting for the medical marijuana industry to come to Tennessee, you will most likely have to wait a little longer.