Marijuana for Medical Use
- In Tennessee, state Rep. Bob Ramsey sponsored a bill to legalize cannabis oil after speaking to a constituent who needed the treatment for cancer. It is not expected to be approved this year.
- Fourteen states states have resisted approving marijuana for medical use.
- Lawmakers in Georgia, Alabama, South and North Carolina are all taking a serious look at the issue.
Medical marijuana advocates may have hoped they could add Tennessee this year to the 36 states with laws that allow cancer patients and others access to cannabis oil.Read More
“We’re way past the tipping point when it comes to public opinion,” says Matt Simon, senior legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization trying to legalize cannabis across the country. “Even the most conservative states will pass medical cannabis,” he predicts.
Cannabis oil is a product usually containing high levels of THC, the substance in marijuana that gives users their “high,” intended for a variety of medical purposes.
Several studies point to it as having value in some treatments, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has moved cautiously. The FDA hasn’t approved cannabis products except some medications containing synthetic THC, including some aimed at helping to relieve the nausea associated with chemotherapy.
Approving products like cannabis oil for medical use is still far more widespread than outright marijuana legalization. More than three times as many states allow medical use of cannabis products compared to those that legalized pot. Virginia became the latest state to enact legalization earlier this month and a bill has been sent to the governor’s desk in New Mexico.
At the other end of the spectrum, 14 states states have resisted even medical use.
In Tennessee, state Rep. Bob Ramsey said he was concerned when he got a call from a man who complained his 42-year-old cancer-stricken son couldn’t legally obtain cannabis oil. The patient believed the oil, which is ingested or used topically, could help shrink a tumor in his neck.
So Ramsey, a 74-year-old dentist and a Republican, sponsored the House version of a bill to legalize cannabis oil, one of a slew of marijuana-related bills to come before the legislature.
Patients were “chagrined they had to go to the black market” and basically had to become criminals under existing Tennessee law to get the medication they believed helped them with their illnesses, Ramsey said.
His bill would make possession legal to patients ages 21 and older who have a note from a doctor indicating they have a life-threatening cancer that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It would have to be obtained in a jurisdiction that allows sales of cannabis oil, according to the state’s analysis of the bill.
But the bill, and a similar measure in the state Senate, are expected to be dead for this year, Ramsey acknowledges. A few top state leaders have indicated they won’t let any of them become law until the federal government stops classifying cannabis as among the most dangerous drugs, the Tennessean of Nashville, one of the state’s leading newspapers, reported this month.
Ramsey said the holdup is “short sided” in light of the many other states that have allowed cannabis products for medical use. He said he fears Tennessee will be the last state to allow them. “We going to be the end of the chain and that’s a poor place to be,” he said.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said lack of such laws only encourages patents to have to try to go to bordering states in search of the medication. In the case of Tennessee, that could mean Missouri or Arkansas to obtain the oil.
Other states are wrestling with the same issues and arguments when it comes to their own cannabis product bills. They include:
—South Carolina. A bill to legalize medical marijuana was passed by a state Senate committee and awaits a vote by full body, The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina, reports.
—North Carolina. Democrats are pressing for marijuana reform, including for medical uses, though they will have to convince Republicans, who hold the majority in the General Assembly, the News & Observer in Raleigh wrote.
—Georgia. The General Assembly is considering whether to make it legal to let patients buy the oil in the state, having previously passed a law that allows possession, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The state already has about 15,000 registered users.
—Alabama. A state House bill passed a committee that would allow medical marijuana products, including oil, for patients with certain conditions, the Montgomery Advertiser notes.