Tennessee Department of Health officials were testifying just as the clock struck 1 p.m. CST, when Committee Chairman Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, immediately banged his gavel to signify the committee was going back into session before adjourning for the day.
Lamberth promised the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, would be the first item on next week’s calendar.
“Chairman Faison, you have my apologies and so does everyone else. You are the first bill on the calendar next week. We will not take up another issue, no matter what it is, until this issue is resolved,” Lamberth said.
A vote on the bill was “rolled” last week at Faison’s request so he could amend some of the bill’s language.
Before hearing testimony Wednesday, the committee voted to adopt Faison’s amendment, which deleted language that would have created a commission to oversee the implementation of medical cannabis.
“After listening to several people's frustrations on a lot of different sides, I decided to put forth an amendment that would basically decriminalize (cannabis for) the sick Tennesseans that we've identified with the 15 qualifying conditions,” Faison told the committee.
The latest version of the bill, only three pages long, still would not permit the smoking of marijuana or the smoking of the raw plant. It would permit a person diagnosed with one of 15 maladies the ability to use cannabis as an ointment, lotion, transdermal patch, suppository, nasal spray, tincture, oil or capsule.
The patient would have to retain proof of a legal order or recommendation from a licensed doctor in the United States stating the medication provides therapeutic or palliative benefit.
Faison said if a person with a permitted form of cannabis was stopped and showed a law enforcement officer a doctor’s written order, it would preclude the person from being arrested.
Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, who sits on the House Criminal Justice Committee, has previously expressed concerns about the bill, mainly about the creation of the oversight commission.
With its removal, Van Huss said the bill seemed more palatable, but he’s still not sure he can vote for it.
“It changed my views a lot,” Van Huss said. “I can’t say whether or not I’m going to vote for it, because I’ve still got a lot of questions that I had today that I want to get answered. He took the part out that I couldn’t vote for, which was the big government system. So I am much amenable to voting for it, to giving medical oil to the folks who need it.”
Van Huss said he still has questions about how cannabis can benefit some of the mental ailments listed in the bill, like severe nausea. He also questioned language permitting spouses of patients to carry cannabis.
Before the debate on medical cannabis, the House Criminal Justice Committee opted to delay a vote on legislation sponsored by Van Huss that would make impersonating an active duty member of the military or veteran for the purpose of gaining benefit a criminal offense.
House Bill 2130 would charge someone with a Class A misdemeanor for attempting to obtain money, property, services or other tangible benefits by pretending to be a military veteran or active service member, either by fabricating certain paperwork or wearing uniforms, medals or insignias.
“There were two amendments from the original bill. One was to make sure the Boy Scouts and other uniformed groups would not be affected, and also for people making movies,” Van Huss said.
Van Huss said he delayed a vote on his bill at the request of House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown.
“I rolled it because Chairman Rep. Tilman Goins has a stolen valor bill, as well. He was going to take his off notice and move mine forward.”