Black, husband criticized for lobbying against medical marijuana bill

Medical marijuana legislation sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison is hitting a hurdle with gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Diane Black opposing it and her husband trying to kill the measure, according to the Tennessee Ledger. Her husband says his actions are in the public interest and not for any financial gain by his company.

Faison, an East Tennessee Republican, confirmed lobbyists employed by The Phoenix Sciences Group, founded and run by David Black, are lobbying against his medical marijuana bill this session.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are questioning such a move by someone seeking the governor’s office, especially with medical marijuana gaining momentum statewide. A 2017 Vanderbilt poll found 44 percent of Tennesseans back the legalization of medical marijuana. An additional 34 percent favor making it legal for medical and recreational use.

Faison is perhaps the most puzzled, running into a new opponent while trying to garner support from state senators who are stonewalling his bill.

“It’s very confusing to me why a gubernatorial candidate would engage in lobbying against a bill when 80 percent of Tennessee’s for it and two-thirds of Americans have access to it already,” said Faison, of Cosby in the Smoky Mountains. “What do you stand to gain by killing this bill and keeping sick Tennesseans form having access to it?”

Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat whose own medical marijuana legislation has gained no traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature, made it clear she believes the Blacks are wrong on several fronts, including transparency.

“Diane Black and her husband David are working against the cannabis bill because he has a testing lab,” she says. “They want to be sure that they get to test marijuana, that they get to test opiates, so they don’t want opiates to go away because they won’t be testing that, and then they want to be doing the marijuana testing for anybody who gets picked up for it.

“I feel like that is absolutely wrong. It was wrong when they got the testing contracts, the governmental testing contracts, and it’s wrong for them to be involved in it now.”

Aegis Science Corporation received a contract worth more than $1 million over five years from the state starting in 2004 to perform drug testing for the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.

… The state’s Ethics Commission website shows he is chief executive officer of Phoenix Sciences Group in Nashville and hires and supervises four lobbyists from Adams and Reese LLP. In late 2016, Black left Aegis Sciences Corporation, the toxicology and health sciences laboratory he and Diane started in 1990, reports show.

Black’s campaign did not respond to email messages and questions, but her husband responded to questions saying Phoenix Sciences Group doesn’t operate a drug-testing lab nor does it plan to bid on or be eligible for any state contracts.

“Our interest in this legislation is based only on the public interest and not on any economic concern,” Black said by email. “I engaged a registered lobbyist comply with state regulations as we express our constitutionally-protected and scientifically-based opinions on proposed legislation.”

Black explained his doctorate degree is in legal medicine, and after eight years of doctoral research on the toxicology and pathology of cannabis sativa, or marijuana, he is considered an expert on subject in scientific journals and in court testimony.

“The harm of cannabis is well-established,” he said.

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