Medical cannabis bill progresses through Tennessee Senate committees

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A last-minute attempt to broaden medical cannabis access across the State of Tennessee has been initiated by the Tennessee Legislature.

Soon, committee members will come to a final decision on whether or not they plan to pass House Bill 0490. The primary aim of this chunk of legislation is to increase the allowable THC levels contained in cannabis oil. 

THC, or ‘tetrahydrocannabinol’ as scientists prefer to call it, is the plant’s primary psychoactive compound. If approved by the Tennessee Legislature, HB 0490 would result in the legal threshold rising from 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent. 

According to medical cannabis consumers, this slight increase in THC would have a significantly positive impact on quality of life for in-need patients. Conversely, the oil would still be off-limit for retail sale in Tennessee.

Although people who suffer from seizures are currently allowed to obtain the 0.9 percent cannabis oil, HB 0490 stipulates that anyone who suffers from the following eight newly-added diagnosable conditions could also soon be eligible to use the oil for medical purposes statewide:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • ALS
  • End-stage cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Sickle cell disease

Medical cannabis in Tennessee: HB 0490 heads to governor’s desk

HB 0490 was approved by the Senate with a vote of 19-12 on Tuesday, May 4. The following day, it was cleared in the House with a 74-17 vote. The passing of a more encompassing medical cannabis bill – also sponsored by Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro – was obstructed by Governor Bill Lee.

Despite blocking legislation, the governor is not completely opposing the legislative effort. In fact, so long as the committees are successful in their efforts, final votes could be cast within the next few days.

Medical cannabis in Tennessee: HB 0490 also creates a commission

HB 0490 now makes its way to the governor’s desk. Should it be signed into law, the state’s cannabis program would be expanded and a commission developed to investigate sweeping medical cannabis legalization.

Based on details of the proposal to increase medical cannabis access in Tennessee, nine members will form a commission. The commission would be relied on to assess federal and state cannabis laws, as well as to help draft legislation that would boost THC limits.

Democrats are anxious that the language contained in Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill could prevent the state from broadening access to the plant in years to come. On the other hand, Republicans who back HB 0490 consider the legislation to be an integral step in helping Tennesseans to acquire their medicine.

“I think what it does is it advances the ball about as far as we can comfortably get it down the field at this point in time and put ourselves in the position to where we can make steps about further advancement as time goes,” said Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville during a committee hearing. “We’re not just going to be wasting another six-month period.”