Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, is advocating strongly for Tennessee to become the 30th state.
Thursday marked the third and final meeting of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis, which has spent the last three months researching the viability of legalizing medicinal marijuana in the state.
“We have done an immense amount of research and we've brought professionals in from all around America and the world,” Faison said.
While driving home from Nashville on Friday, Faison, a co-chairman on that committee, said he is nearly finished drafting legislation for the 2018 session that would legalize cannabis edibles, capsules and oil available for medical purposes.
"Some of my friends go to the drug store for help. Some of my friends go to the liquor store for help. Some of my friends go to nature's store for help. The only store that's never killed somebody is nature's store. The drug store and the liquor store kill people everyday,” Faison said in support of legalization.
At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Faison implied that the committee’s other co-chairman, Sen. Steven Dickerson, would sponsor the effort in the upper chamber.
“In the next five years, it’s going to be in every state in America. I would choose to be the 30th, not the 50th. However, I don’t know where my colleagues are on this,” Faison said at the meeting’s conclusion.
Opposed to recreational marijuana usage, Faison said his bill would only legalize cannabis in edible, capsule and oil forms. Smoking would not be permitted in its current form.
“It will be seed to sale tracking, and it will only be for qualified patients, who the doctor and the state of Tennessee through the Department of Health have acknowledged that, ‘yes, they have these diseases,’ ” Faison said.
Faison said he believes the ad hoc committee, as a whole, realizes legalization is the “right thing to do for Tennessee,” but he also acknowledged not every member is completely supportive.
“There's one or two stragglers in the Senate who are still struggling, but we put a chink in their armor. You can say that. I put a chink in their armor this week. And they have seen for the first time that there is way more science and evidence-based medicine than they ever realized,” Faison said.
Sens. Joey Hensley and Richard Briggs, both physicians serving on the ad hoc committee, have been wary in the past to throw their full support behind legalization.
Johnson City Sen. Rusty Crowe has also been speculative of the effort. Crowe could not be reached by phone on Friday, but Faison said he didn’t think Crowe was “on-board, yet.”
When the ad hoc committee was first announced in August, Crowe seemed undecided on the issue and implied he would follow the support of statewide medical groups.
“I always take my lead, not only from my constituents obviously, but in this case I always try to listen to the Tennessee Medical Association and the Tennessee Pharmacy Association. All those doctors statewide that come out with their collective voice,” Crowe said.
Faison has sponsored similar legalization bills in the past, and last session, his bill was taken off notice before House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally announced the formation of the committee to study the feasibility of legalization.
So far, Harwell is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to say she was “open” to the idea of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
Email Zach Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.