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Medical marijuana bill gets snubbed, local activists plan rally for Saturday

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Apr 19, 2018 at 6:49 PM

After recent efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee were postponed once again on Capitol Hill, local medical marijuana advocates are planning another Johnson City rally on Saturday to voice their disappointment. 

“We planned this rally to let (legislators) know we are not going to give up,” said Seth Green, a local medical marijuana advocate and activist.

The march will begin at the Farmers Market at 2 p.m. and make its way to a rally at the corner of State of Franklin Road and University Parkway.

Earlier this month, there were high hopes among medical marijuana advocates when House Bill 1749, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, set out to provide a legal defense for patients with a doctor’s order to possess certain forms of medical cannabis, but not the raw plant form.

While Green said he and other proponents of full marijuana legalization did not think Faison’s original House bill went far enough, he considered it a step in the right direction. At the very least, Green said, he supports medical marijuana to help alleviate the effects of illnesses such as cancer, chronic pain and to provide medication alternatives in the midst of the region’s opioid epidemic.

“I was in full support of Faison’s bill,” he said. “We are in Tennessee and in the Bible Belt. We have to take small steps, and any small step dealing with medical cannabis will be a tremendous help in getting closer to medical marijuana legislation or full legalization.”

But when the revised Senate Bill 1710 made it to the state Senate, Green, a longtime activist pushing for medical marijuana legalization in Tennessee, said he was disappointed to see state Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, called it quits and “didn’t let anybody speak on it.”

“Sounds like a Donald Trump move to me — saying one thing and doing something else,” Green said of Dickerson’s decision.

Earlier this month, Press staff writer Zach Vance reported that Dickerson was concerned the House's "watered-down" version of the bill would "forestall any efforts to have a much more widespread, much more thoughtful legislative construct for several years."

Dickerson sent the bill to a summer subcommittee a week after an amended version cleared the House Justice Committee. He was concern the legislation did not have enough votes needed to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“One minute, he is a co-sponsor of a bill and next, he won’t let people vote on it,” Green said. “When we found out that we were going to have a bill in Tennessee dealing with medical marijuana and it cleared the House, people were happy. Then it went to the Senate and it did not pass because of the co-sponsor.

“You’d think if he (Dickerson) was once a doctor, he’d care about these issues and get a bill passed as soon as possible. I was just dumbfounded.”

This upcoming rally is one in a series Green has held over the years to pressure legislators to keep the topic of marijuana decriminalization and legalization in mind.

“When we stop doing rallies, that’s when you stop seeing support from legislators. When we do that, we lose all attempts to get a bill passed,” he said. 

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