Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) is leading the charge for legalizing medicinal marijuana in her state. Harwell is working with the House Health Subcommittee Chairman Bryan Terry (R) to pass legislation that would allow oil-based medications to be prescribed in Tennessee.
Terry, a physician, believes that the federal government is endangering the lives of patients by failing to reform America's outdated marijuana laws. Despite the fact that 31 states and Washington, DC have legalized cannabis for medicinal use, the feds still define marijuana as a substance that has no accepted medical use and is as dangerous as heroin.
"The inaction and hypocritical stance at the federal level puts many patients in a bind and hinders medical research and treatment," Terry said in a statement released last Wednesday. "States need to stand up for patients."
Harwell believes that the proposed measure will be both beneficial to patients with serious medical conditions and in combating the opioid crisis in Tennessee. Over 1,600 residents of Tennessee died from opioid overdose in 2016 whereas states with medical cannabis programs have been more effective in culling opioid usage, Harwell noted.
Harwell is one of the few Republicans running for governor in Tennessee who support medical marijuana. She has said witnessing how helpful medical marijuana had been for her sister, who suffered a back injury, cemented her position on the issue.
But Harwell and Terry are not without opposition. Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) and Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) have sponsored legislation that would bar medical marijuana in Tennessee. Additionally, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) stands in direct opposition to any kind of cannabis legalization in Tennessee. So Harwell may have a tough fight ahead of her.