legislative dinner

State Sen. Janice Bowling announced on Thursday night that she would be carrying legislation on legalizing medical cannabis in the state of Tennessee this legislative session at the annual legislative dinner held Thursday, Jan. 17. Bowling said she has been working on the legislation for nearly a year.

For the fifth year in a row, the City of Tullahoma and Rogers Group hosted its three state legislators and give them updates on the city’s progress and share its needs for the current legislative session.

State Sen. Janice Bowling and newly-elected State Reps. Rush Bricken and Iris Rudder convened inside the Lakewood Golf and Country Club on Thursday night to hear from their constituents in Tullahoma about their needs from the General Assembly this year.

Overall, the main concerns from the city’s perspective remained the same as in previous years, with rural broadband access and local control of student assessment testing once again impressed upon Bowling by the city’s main utility provider and school district.

Other agencies thanked the legislators for their continued support through the next legislative session, welcoming newcomers Bricken and Rudder to their new positions in the state house, saying they looked forward to working with them.

One new concern arose quickly, however, courtesy of Rogers Group’s Steve Moran.

Moran implored the legislators to see what could be done about the dangers of those texting while driving in construction zones. He said many of his crew members had experienced near-accidents on interstate construction projects due to drivers speeding and texting while driving and asked the legislators could look into how to make construction zones in general safer while tackling distracted drivers.

Other agency representatives echoed Moran’s concerns, saying the use of smart phones while driving was increasingly dangerous, asking the legislators to seriously consider taking up legislation to combat the epidemic.


Upcoming legislation

Since Bricken and Rudder are new to the General Assembly, they aren’t likely to carry any legislation on their own, according to Bricken, but Bowling has big plans for the upcoming session.

She said she will once again be carrying legislation that will allow utility companies like TUA to bring their broadband service outside of their electric footprint, as she has the last couple years. She will also be carrying legislation to allow for local control of student assessment testing, as she did two years ago.

Both of these issues remain ongoing battle for TUA and Tullahoma City Schools, but Bowling said she will continue to fight for those local issues on behalf of the community.


Medical marijuana legislation

Bowling also announced she will be carrying legislation for the legalization of medical marijuana.

According to Bowling, she’s been working on the legislation for the last year, studying the other 33 states who have legalized marijuana usage for medicinal purposes.

The bill involves setting up an appointed commission similar to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission that will be in charge of regulating the medical conditions that will be allowed to apply for marijuana cards as well as setting up taxing measures on all medical marijuana sales.

Some possible medical conditions on the approved medical marijuana list include various cancers, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and muscular and neurological disorders whose symptoms are improved with medical marijuana, Bowling said.

Additionally, the commission will set up a “tax stream” for the marijuana sales, and the commission would have to be “self-funded, in a way,” according to Bowling.

Any excess revenues generated from the drug sales would have been proposed to benefit law enforcement, education and research, she said. Some money will also go into the state’s general fund, Bowling added.

The commission will be made up of members appointed by the governor and the speakers of both the state house and senate, Bowling said.

Bowling is adamantly opposed to the recreational legalization of cannabis in the state, and her bill will possibly encounter some resistance from Governor Bill Lee, who said in a meet-and-greet in town last year that he was totally opposed to the legalization of marijuana in any form, including for medical purposes.

When asked if she was worried about Lee’s previous stance on medical marijuana, Bowling said she planned to show him how comprehensive the measure would be and “discuss that with him.”

Those discussions with Lee may prevent any vetoes from the governor, Bowling hoped.

“I think that, should the General Assembly pass it, I feel comfortable that he would not veto it,” she said.

According to the General Assembly’s website, the bill has not been formally introduced as of Friday afternoon, though Bowling said she had only recently received the first draft back by Thursday night.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.