'States Need to Stand Up For Medical Marijuana Patients,' Says High-Ranking Tennessee Republican

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a physician, believes that the federal government is endangering the lives of patients by failing to reform America's outdated marijuana laws.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.

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Glaucoma often makes the list of acceptable conditions for treatment by medical marijuana in states where the substance has been legalized, but the cannabis compound CBD could actually worsen the condition. A recent study from Indiana University has found that consuming CBD—a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis often used for medicinal purposes— actually increases eye pressure. "This study raises important questions about the relationship between the primary ingredients in cannabis and their effect on the eye," lead researcher Alex Straiker told Science Alert.