Now is the time in Tennessee to move the conversation about medical cannabis out from the shadows and away from hushed conversations.
Now is the time in Tennessee to restore patient freedom. Now is the time for this medicine.
Thirty states and two-thirds of the U.S. already have access to more than 800 medical cannabis products, but not Tennesseans. Around us, first there was Arkansas, Kentucky’s governor has signaled his support, and Virginia is quickly moving toward medical cannabis.
Tennesseans are there. Nearly 80 percent of registered voters support giving doctors the option to prescribe medical cannabis. Two-thirds of Republican voters do. Tennessee doesn’t have this mechanism for policy-making, but if this were up to a statewide referendum – as it’s been done in other states – regulated access to medical cannabis would already be here.
But Tennessee is in danger of being left behind, a state known for health care innovation about to lose out on market share of an industry projected to hit $20 billion in the next six years, as states with medical cannabis laws have seen deaths from opioid overdoses drop by 25 percent and the number of painkiller prescriptions fall by 23 percent.
This session the Tennessee legislature will consider HB 1749/SB 1710, the Medical Cannabis Only Act (MCO), a conservative, medically responsible Tennessee solution to help those with specific, debilitating health conditions.
The MCO bill provides industry oversight and safe patient access and the right for municipalities to opt out of it if they choose. It creates an independent regulatory commission to balance the needs of entrepreneurs and patients, with law enforcement at the table, in an accountable and transparent manner.
Overseas, scientific research advances into the medicinal benefits of cannabis have been significant, especially in Israel. Here in America, even with the resistance of the federal government to research into medical cannabis benefits, there are now over 60 peer-reviewed studies that qualify for FDA field trials. So, why isn’t this science being put to use here in Tennessee to relieve pain and suffering across a long list of medical conditions?
Old stereotypes and misinformation die hard. Opponents claim cannabis is a dangerous drug. False. The National Institute of Drug Abuse acknowledges that the toxicity of cannabis is zero. It’s physically impossible to overdose on cannabis. You are more likely to overdose on water. Then the argument it’s a ‘gateway drug.’ False. They majority of cannabis users never move on to persistent use of ‘harder drugs.’
Medical cannabis is not a miracle cure. But, the growing body of science research worldwide shows that medical cannabis can provide significant, if not dramatic, positive results to treat a number of medical conditions. Why shouldn’t Tennesseans – working with their doctor – have the right to try those treatments under medical supervision instead of being left behind?
The Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association is working with all interested parties to get to a fair-minded solution and to move away from the misinformation of the past. Law-abiding Tennesseans should not be forced to subsidize the cannabis black market to meet their health care needs. Tennesseans should not be passed by when non-addictive and lower cost alternatives to opiates are available to remedy pain and suffering.
Medical cannabis is one of the fastest growing industries in both the US and globally because it works. The Medical Cannabis Only bill is a conservative and responsible approach for Tennessee to catch up with America and provide patients an additional treatment option that works for them.
It’s medicine, and it’s time.
Glenn Anderson is the executive director of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association. He is originally from Tennessee. Glenn served in the Washington State legislature for 12 years and was the Republican lead on expanding that state’s medical cannabis laws.