New version of Tennessee Medical Cannabis bill would decriminalize valid possession

The green leafy plant and extract oil used to make medicinal cannabis is shown in this photo. A new study finds low doses of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, could dramatically improve cognitive function in older people.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - The Medical Cannabis Only Act is going before the Criminal Justice Committee again Wednesday, this time in a new form.

SB 1710 and HB 1749 would allow access to cannabidiol oil to Tennesseans with certain medical conditions. However, the bill has been amended to focus on decriminalization instead of access.

Under its current form, the bill would decriminalize possession of cannabidiol as long as the individual possessed a valid prescription from a doctor or a medical marijuana card.

Several medical marijuana advocates and those opposed to the bill gave testimony Wednesday.

Andrea Houser, a Lawrenceburg mother of two who suffers seizures from epilepsy, said the THC in cannabis oil is imperative to her health. Houser said when she had her first seizure, she went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and didn't wake up for three days. Following that, she's developed 19 kidney stones from side effects due to medicine.

Houser spoke frankly in front of lawmakers and said she had gotten marijuana illegally to help with her pain -- but has since stopped.

"Because of cannabis, I felt normal again," House said. "I stopped because I didn’t want to break the law - but my seizures came back."

Houser said the seizures traumatize her children; one refers to her episodes as the "seizure monster."

"It's not fun when you’re having a seizure, biting your tongue and choking on blood in front of your kids," Houser said.

The mother says she doesn't want to move away from Tennessee but is in need of this bill being passed.

“I would rather be illegally alive than legally dead,” Houser said.

During the last hearing on the bill, Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, touched on the amendment, saying individuals would be able to present a prescription or card to law enforcement and avoid arrest.

Under the original bill, Tennesseans would need to have specific health conditions to gain access. Those health conditions are:

  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS
  • PTSD
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Severe arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, with a confirmation diagnosis, or the treatment of such disease or condition that produces (1) or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, severe chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe or persistent muscle spasms; and any other medical condition approved by the commission in response to a request from a practitioner or potentially qualifying patient or a proposal initiated by a member of the commission.