Bowling, Travis Releasing Advance Copy Of Amendment To Medical Cannabis Bill

Tennessee Would Join 33 Other States with Regulated Access to Medical Cannabis

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Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

(NASHVILLE), February 6, 2019 – State Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) this week filed SB 486, and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) filed HB 637, the 2019 Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act.

Bowling and Travis are releasing an advance copy of the amendment that will follow and become the actual bill for SB 486/HB 637.

An advance copy of the amendment is attached to this email or available upon request from Bowling’s and Travis’s offices.

The amendment is under discussion with colleagues in the House and Senate to finalize the framework of the program. Because this program is new to the state and signals a significant change and new set of options for patients, the sponsors invite public comment and discussion.

Thirty-three states have approved and have been setting up medical programs during the last 20 years. No state has repealed their program. The sponsors are hopeful that a well-structured program in Tennessee will impact the rise of overdose deaths, 1,776 in 2017, higher than the year prior.  

Studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical programs (1999-2010) experienced an average 24.8 percent drop in deaths from opioid overdose. A 2018 study also published by JAMA, reviewing Medicare Part D records, showed an average 14 percent drop in opioid prescriptions in states allowing medical cannabis purchases.

“There are voices of concern and fear. I understand that. Mine was one of them until I studied cannabis and heard from my constituents,” said Bowling, who has been interested in the fact that even the DEA admits there is no recorded case of an overdose death from cannabis. “There are almost 1,000 medical studies of cannabis covering nearly 200 conditions from anxiety to traumatic brain injury.”

Travis will have a statement and answer questions with Bowling about the amendment and how it can open the doors to a program the state has long discussed but not put in place.  

Under the legislation, there is an initial Fasttrack program for two types of licenses: urban omni licenses and rural vertically integrated (RUVI) licenses. Both types of licenses authorize everything from cultivation to sale, often referred to a “vertically integrated license.” For the Fasttrack program the urban licenses must operate in one of the counties with a population exceeding 336,400. Twelve urban licenses are available and 12 rural licenses are available. Rural licenses are half the price of the urban license, and rural licenses allow growers to aggregate cultivation in bordering counties.  

Other components of the amendment:

  • There is a no-monopoly provision in the amendment;
  • Rural and urban licensing is divided to help foster rural development;
  • Current law prohibits operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis. This bill doesn’t change that;
  • The amendment contains detailed timelines with deadlines that must be met;
  • A stand-alone, nine-member commission will hire a program director and deputy director. Five of the commission members must meet professional expertise requirements;
  • The commission and the program director have the flexibility to address THC levels based on the strains and products from qualified companies to applying to participate;
  • Any applicants for a license must, as in most other states, include with their application a detailed business plan, proof they are properly capitalized, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as well as other requirements.  

The sponsors recognize that this is a subject of public interest and hope that their colleagues in the House and Senate will work with them to craft this program.

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