Harwell, McNally establish medical marijuana panel

In accord with an agreement reached back in March, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally on Friday appointed a joint House-Senate committee to study medical marijuana and make a report to the Legislature for next year’s session.

The “Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis” will be chaired by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, both advocates of medical marijuana who sponsored a legalization bill in the 2017 session. Faison announced he was taking the bill “off notice” – meaning he would not seek a committee vote – after Harwell and McNally agreed to set up the study committee. (Previous post HERE.)

“This committee is hereby authorized and directed to study, evaluate, analyze and undertake a comprehensive review regarding whether the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes is in the best interests of the state,” the speakers say in a joint letter announcing formation of the panel and naming its members.

In addition to Faison, House members on the committee are Reps. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville; Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and Sam Whitson, R-Franklin.

In addition to Dickerson, Senate members of the committee are Sens. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville; Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville; Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City.

Background Notes: Bills legalizing medical marijuana have repeatedly failed in past sessions – typically with Democratic sponsors (notably including Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville) and votes along party lines.

Harwell, now campaigning for governor, recently said her sister in Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal, used the drug successfully and that has caused her to reevaluate her position on the issue. Previous post HERE.

Faison and Dickerson only filed a caption bill for the 2017 session (HB495) and never sought a vote on the amendment that would have “made the bill” with details of how the cannabis prescription process would work. Ergo, it was never posted on the legislative website. They did outline their proposal, however, and a post on that outline – including the draft text — is HERE.

Hat tip to WKRN, which has text of the Harwell-McNally letter posted HERE.

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