Medical marijuana advocates hope to advance bill

Medical marijuana advocates hope to advance bill (Image 1)

Legalizing medical marijuana will once again receive some attention on Tennessee's Capitol Hill, but the question is how much?

This year, a vote in a neighboring state gives supporters some hope against long odds.
“I am really encouraged by the trend we have seen here in Tennessee,” longtime advocate Bernie Ellis told Nashville's News 2 Thursday.

Ellis points to last fall's statewide vote in neighboring Arkansas, which nearly became the first southern state to legalize marijuana. A referendum there narrowly failed by a 51% to 49% margin.

For years, advocates for medical marijuana such as Ellis have traipsed to Tennessee's Capitol Hill pleading their case.

Last year, it was Constance Gee, the ex-wife of a former Vanderbilt University chancellor.

In 2010, it was former Fort Campbell soldier Chad Fowler who told his story to state lawmakers.

“It would make feel a lot better if I could go Walgreens to pick up my prescription instead of waiting in a dark parking lot for someone to bring it to me,” said Fowler.

Fowler said he used marijuana at the time to ease a number of conditions he suffered during his time in the military.

Legalizing medical marijuana actually passed a Tennessee House subcommittee last year by a voice vote marking the first time the measure had actually gotten a vote.

We know it's a challenge as it is every year, but the weight of the science is overwhelming now,” Ellis said.

State representative Sherry Jones will likely sponsor a medical marijuana bill this year in the House, while a Senate sponsor is still being sought.

She's convinced it helps cancer patients or those with debilitating pain.

“Medical marijuana helps them feel better so they can eat, and they don't waste away,” said the lawmaker.

Jones knows medical marijuana is a delicate subject for her fellow lawmakers–with many who don't even want to talk about it publicly.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who think I would not want that [suffering] to happen to my son or my daughter or my mother, and they would want that [marijuana]  available,” she told News 2.

Ellis says some of medical marijuana is now available legally in 18-states including the District of Columbia.

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