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Citizens speak out in support of legalizing marijuana for medical use

Hannah Swayze • Updated Apr 21, 2018 at 9:41 PM

After the disappointment of a recent medical marijuana bill being pulled in the Tennessee legislature, a group took to Johnson City’s streets Saturday to remind peoplethe issue still has support.

About 40 people made it out to a cannabis rally Saturday on the corner of University Parkway and West State of Franklin Road to raise awareness and let everyone know they haven't given up.

The rally’s organizer, Seth Green, a local medical marijuana advocate, said there were multiple reasons for the rally. Among those, he cited voicing disappointment in the state government for not passing legislation legalizing medical marijuana, educating people on the history and benefits of the substance and its potential as a possible alternative to prescription opioids and a treatment for cancer, chronic pain, mental illness, anxiety and many other medical issues.

Everyone at the rally seemed to have a personal story as so why they were there. Some came because their families and friends could benefit from medical marijuana, some because they themselves would like to use it.

Among the crowd was Josh Borders. Borders said that after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2013, he was treated with both radiation and chemotherapy. While he is in remission now, and grateful for that, he supports the legalization of the medical marijuana for people diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses.

Borders said he has several family members and friends who are sick and he believes they could benefit from the legalization of cannabis as medical treatment, especially if it is cheaper.

"They paid all this money for insurance, all the money for deductibles, all the money for co-pays. It's just ... cancer is an industry. It's a business. And stuff like this could really help people," Borders said. "Sometimes it's not about the quantity of your life it's the quality."

David Michel, local director of Safe Access Tri-Cities, attended the rally. He could be found enthusiastically waving a green and black flag with a marijuana leaf on it. Safe Access Tri-Cities is a group that advocates to get patients access to medical marijuana. His personal connection is through his daughter, who suffers from mental illness.

Michel said there is a lot of support for medical marijuana, but a lot of people are afraid to show their support. He referred to the size of the crowd, which was smaller when compared to other rallies in Johnson City, like the March for our Lives and Women's March.

When asked what he thought about the stigma that seems to surround marijuana, he did not say anything, but instead demonstrated a large flourish of the flag toward the honking cars driving by.

The bill calling for the legalization of marijuana in Tennessee was sent to summer study committee of the legislature.

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