High Tide 

Medical marijuana bill makes its way through the General Assembly.

Riding the high of national wins for medical marijuana advocates, Representative Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) is sponsoring the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize medical marijuana use in Tennessee for specific medical conditions.

In 2012, a similar bill made it to committee before being withdrawn by the sponsor, former Democratic Representative Jeanne Richardson of Memphis. Since then, four additional states have legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total number of states with legalized medical pot to 21.

"We decided to make it strict because we wanted to be able to pass it and, considering that the state is Republican-controlled, we felt like that was the best way to go," Jones said.

With the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act, in order to enroll in the Safe Access program, the patient's doctor would have to complete a full medical history assessment along with a statement saying the patient would benefit from medical marijuana for his or her qualifying medical condition, which includes cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's, and — newest on the list — post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

According to the bill, chronic diseases not named must produce "wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating, chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures; [and] severe and persistent muscle spasms."

Medical conditions with required hospice care, toward the end of a patient's life, could also qualify for medical marijuana. The bill also does not require insurance companies — either government-assisted or private — to reimburse patients for the cost of marijuana, nor does it force employers to accommodate marijuana in work environments.

Medical marijuana, if legalized through the bill, could not be used in any public place or any space that "significantly and adversely affects the health" of children.

The bill also specifies regulations for growers and dispensaries that would be operating from the newfound legality of marijuana, including oversight rules from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health.

Paul Kuhn, who sits on the Board of Directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is a marijuana advocate in Nashville. His wife, Jeanne, used marijuana during chemotherapy before passing away from breast cancer in 1996 — a story that is all too common with cancer patients, Kuhn said.

"We're hopeful that since there is such a national movement that we might be able to get some movement here in Tennessee, but we're going to present it, and we're going to do the best we can with it," Jones said. "I think the national politicians see where this is going. I hope that Tennessee politicians will see where this needs to go."


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