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Lawmakers must act responsibly on medical cannabis

Johnson City Press • Apr 8, 2018 at 8:23 PM

Efforts to legalize medical cannabis in Tennessee have once again been stubbed out on Capitol Hill. This time it was the bill's sponsor who decided to call it quits.

State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, told his colleagues last week he simply did not have the votes needed to get the legislation out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's why he sent the bill to a summer subcommittee a week after an amended version cleared the House Justice Committee.

The House bill, which received the support of state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, provides a legal defense for patients with a doctor’s order to possess certain forms of medical cannabis, but not the raw plant form. Neither version of the bill allowed the smoking of the raw marijuana plant.

As Press staff writer Zach Vance reported last week, 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."

As disappointing as the move might be to advocates of medical marijuana, Dickerson is correct in dry docking his legislation for a year. He's also on the mark in not wanting to proceed recklessly on a course that could result in passage of flawed legislation. This is a complicated issue, with profound moral, medical and legal ramifications.

The goal of the state General Assembly should always be to act responsibly on such difficult issues. We know that does not always happen, particularly in an election year.

Certainly, this is an important issue. Tennessee is experiencing a crisis in regard to opioid addiction. If medical cannabis can help relieve the suffering of Tennesseans who are in the grip of addiction or chronic pain, then lawmakers have a sworn duty to pass Dickerson's Medical Cannabis Act. But as the bill's sponsor noted, it must not be so diluted and confusing that it does more harm than good.

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