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VOL. 40 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 9, 2016

GOP lawmakers introduce bill seeking to legalize medical pot

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Republican lawmakers are introducing legislation that would allow the use of marijuana for a variety of medical conditions in Tennessee.

The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/2huB6cR) that the measure sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby and Steve Dickerson of Nashville would allow 50 growing operations around the state, including 15 in economically distressed areas.

"At its heart, I really do think this is a very Republican, conservative bill," Dickerson said. "I know that's a little counter-intuitive, but it gets the government out of our lives."

The bill envisions the state generating revenue through licensing by three state departments: Agriculture, Safety and Health. Each agency would develop its own rules and costs for licensing.

Medical practitioners would also have to obtain a special license to be able to prescribe medical marijuana, and patients would have to get a $35 medical card.

Previous efforts to have Tennessee join the other 28 states that allow medical marijuana have failed in recent years.

Supporters argue that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen double-digit decreases in opioid-related deaths.

"I think there are significant anecdotes and some data that substantiate the proposition that medical cannabis will have a decrease on the consumption of opiates," Dickerson said.

A Vanderbilt University Poll last month found growing acceptance among Tennesseans for looser restrictions on marijuana use. Three-quarters of respondents said marijuana should be legal for either medicinal or personal use.

"What this bill is not is opening the door to recreational use; this is not a bill that will allow people to get high on the streets," Dickerson said. "This is, however, a bill that would bring a necessary medicine to some of the sickest and most critically ill Tennesseans."

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