One of Tennessee's lead medical marijuana advocates is now pulling a bill he once supported.
"I fear that if we passed the watered-down version of this bill it would essentially forestall any efforts to have a much more widespread, much more thoughtful legislative construct for several years," State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) told U.S. News.
Dickerson - who is also a doctor - says the amendments that have been made to the proposed bill would only create further roadblocks for wider legalization down the road. He said he believes cannabis has a wide variety of medical applications with little drawbacks, and wants to see it available as widely as possible.
The original bill would have regulated and taxed a market where companies could grow marijuana and sell cannabis oil to certain patients. The amended bill prohibits cannabis production and sales in Tennessee. That means patients would have to leave the state to obtain medical marijuana. And since it's a federal crime to transport prohibited substances across state borders, those patients would risk getting prosecuted for violating federal cannabis prohibition if they tried to get their medicine.
Dickerson would like patients to have access to marijuana in Tennessee. So he plans to present a new bill next year that would allow growing, processing, dispensing, regulation, and taxation of cannabis.
House sponsor of the bill Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) offered his support for medical marijuana in Tennessee in a tweet Tuesday after noon.
Sometimes you get to plant. Sometimes you get to water. Sometimes you get to harvest. I would love to be able to harvest but for right now, the TN Senate only wants planting and watering. Medical Cannabis is coming to Murica regardless of the naysayers.— Rep. Jeremy Faison (@JeremyFaison4TN) April 3, 2018
But Dickerson faces strong opposition from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. Although McNally is wary of medical marijuana, he isn't opposed to discussing the topic in the legislature in order to properly deal with some of this issues raised by Dickerson in the future.
"I look forward to continued debate and discussion on this issue in the years to come," McNally said recently. "I am confident this issue will remain a contentious one."
As long as both sides are willing to talk, there's hope that Tennessee will develop sensible cannabis laws in the future.