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VOL. 132 | NO. 44 | Thursday, March 2, 2017

Miller’s Medical Pot Cards Bill Added to Marijuana Debates

By Sam Stockard

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NASHVILLE – A measure by state Rep. Larry Miller requiring Tennessee to accept medical marijuana cards from other states met a cool response Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.


Miller, a Memphis Democrat, postponed his Medical Marijuana Forgiveness Act for two weeks until fellow lawmakers could get a better feel for how the state would handle such a law.

Essentially, if a Tennessean held a medical marijuana card issued by a physician in a state where the treatment is legal, the person would be “forgiven” for possessing medical marijuana in this state, Miller told the committee.

Miller advised the panel another bill sponsored by state Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Cosby, would legalize medical marijuana and set up a process for growing and governing it.

As evidence of the drug’s growing popularity for treatment of illness and pain, Miller points out 66 percent of Tennesseans surveyed support medical marijuana being allowed in the state. He also says a person from Memphis will be able to drive across the state line and obtain a medical marijuana card in Arkansas where voters approved medical marijuana in a referendum.

Still, Miller ran into opposition from state Rep. William Lamberth, a former assistant district attorney from Cottontown in Sumner County, who told him he found on the internet that people can go online and obtain a medical marijuana card from a physician in California, in some instances doing nothing but dialing 1-800-DR-WEEDS to request a card.

“I just don’t think that’s the direction Tennessee wants to go,” said Lamberth, an influential member of the committee.

Miller received support from Rep. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat, who said residents with valid cards shouldn’t be punished.

“We don’t want people to suffer,” Akbari said.

Miller received the backing of Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville, as well.

“I think we should take a good look at this because all the states around us are passing” laws legalizing medical marijuana, Jones says. “It’s time for us to stop and recognize what the constituents want.”

Despite that support, Miller put off the bill for two weeks and afterward acknowledged he’s not so much concerned with whether the bill can pass as he is with setting a tone.

“What I’m trying to do is simply put out a message to inform this committee, members of the General Assembly, what is the wisest thing to do,” he says. “I’m basing it on common sense. I’m basing it on information and basing it on facts.”

If Tennessee passes laws allowing people to carry medical marijuana cards, the state can control, regulate and monitor, then evaluate the situation, and if things don’t work well, the Legislature can stop it, Miller says.

But to do nothing, he contends, puts Tennessee in its customary position of failing to take “progressive and idealistic” action.

While Lamberth says his biggest concern is accepting cards from states where Tennessee has no control over their regulations, he welcomes debate on the legalization of medical marijuana.

“I get the feeling from people this is a decision they would rather Tennesseans make to determine how we’re going to deal with this here in our state, and not just necessarily accept a card from another state,” he said.

Lamberth hopes to have a broader discussion on the matter, involving physicians and scientists, when legislators consider Faison’s medical marijuana legalization bill.

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter covering the Legislature for The Memphis Daily News. He can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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