Republicans in Two Red States Considering Medical Marijuana

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The Oklahoma Legislature, as well as several legislators in Tennessee, are considering legalizing medical marijuana. The Oklahoman reported Monday that the Oklahoma Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 6 to 5 to pass Senate Bill 1120.  

The senate bill allows the Oklahoma Board of Health to regulate medical marijuana and will include restrictions on the number of businesses issued licenses to cultivate and sell cannabis.  

The board will also determine the cost of medical marijuana. Oklahoma is set to vote on legalizing medical marijuana in June, but Senate Bill 112o will permit the Board of Health to make regulations on medical marijuana now. The bill's author, Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), says the bill is a work in progress and that changes to the bill can be made at a later date.  

The Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also called Question 788, would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. If passed, patients will need a state-issued medical marijuana license signed by a board-certified doctor. Patients will be able to carry no more than three ounces of marijuana at one time and have no more than 8 ounces at their place of residence.  

Regulations will also place a 7-percent tax on medical marijuana sales, and the tax revenue generated would be used for education and substance abuse rehabilitation.  

An organization called Oklahomans for Health was responsible for collecting the signatures that landed the initiative on the June ballot. The organizer of Oklahomans for Health was not pleased with the bill passed Monday prior to the June vote and said that physicians should be responsible for deciding which patients need medical marijuana.  

Tennessee Candidate for Governor Supports Medical Marijuana 

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Legislators in Tennessee are also considering medical cannabis in the state. A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state being sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) and Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) has gotten more support from their colleagues in the Republican Party.  

The Medical Cannabis Only Act now has the support of the Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee, Dr. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), as well as the Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). The Tennessean reported that Harwell and Terry signed on to co-sponsor the bill on Monday in Nashville. The bill does not permit smoking cannabis but does allow cannabidiol for PTSD, cancer, and other serious illnesses.   

The current Tennessee Lieutenant Governor, Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), is strongly opposed to any form of medical marijuana. Senator Hartwell is a candidate for governor of the state and believes that federal laws regarding marijuana have undermined medical research. The senator says that she is for the legislation, adding that it is time for the state to act and legalize medical marijuana to help sick people and stop harming them.  

She also mentioned the opioid crises and believes that legal medical marijuana could help to combat the epidemic. More than 1,600 people died in Tennessee in 2016 from overdosing on opiates. There is some evidence that legalizing marijuana could decrease overdoses from prescription drugs, since people who can benefit from marijuana may not need strong opioid prescriptions to control pain.  

Senator Terry agrees, saying in a statement that marijuana can benefit people with opioid addictions, Crohn's disease, and seizures, adding that states need to protect patients in Tennessee. He said that the federal blockade limits research on medical marijuana and stifles patients.  

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved the bill in a 4-to-3 vote Tuesday. The vote was tied, with Senator Hartwell breaking the tie. The bill will now move on to the Senate.