Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bill to legalize medical marijuana in Tenn. deferred for another week

By Hank Hayes

Published April 20th, 2010

A legislative amendment directing the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy to
study legalizing the medical use of marijuana was defeated by the House
Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday.

With the amendment, state Rep. Jeanne Richardson attempted to rewrite
her proposed legislation to establish a medical marijuana program for
qualified patients, but it failed by a 9-12 vote.

Richardson, D-Memphis, then asked for and got another deferral of the
legislation for one week.

State Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said before the vote that the
medical marijuana issue encompasses more than just pharmacists.

"I don't know how much they can really ... how much light they
can shed on the subject," said Hensley, a working physician. "I
just don't really think the Board of Pharmacy is going to be able to
answer all the questions. Dispensing is certainly one question, but
that's really not my biggest question. ... It's the ethics,
it's the use, it's the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
looking at the drug itself and Scheduling it before we actually
prescribe it. ... I don't really think the Board of Pharmacy wants
to study this, either. ... I am not going to support this

At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I
substance under the Controlled Substances Act, making distribution of
marijuana a federal offense.

But in 1996, California became the first state to allow for the medical
use of marijuana. Since then, 14 more states have enacted similar laws,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Last year, NCSL said President Barack Obama's administration sent a
memo to federal prosecutors encouraging them not to prosecute people who
distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with various
state laws.

In response to Hensley, Richardson said pharmacy board members agreed in
a teleconference to study the issue and would be assisted by the
Tennessee Department of Health.

"I think it is very important to the people of this state who are
sick and dying and suffering that this get a fair hearing and
consideration. We owe that to them," Richardson said.

State Rep. David Shepard, D-Dickson, pointed out the pharmacy board
could at least look at the regulatory aspects of medical marijuana.

"That's really what my concerns are. ... How do you regulate
it?" Shepard, a working pharmacist, asked. "How do you set up
the dispensaries? Should the Schedule of the drug be changed? In federal
law, marijuana is Schedule I. ... In state law it is Schedule 6. ... I
do believe this is an issue we should look at and give a fair hearing

The Tennessee Board of Pharmacy licenses and registers pharmacists,
pharmacies, pharmacy technicians, manufacturers and wholesale
distributors, and medical service representatives. The board also enacts
rules addressing professional conduct and standards of practice.

Under Richardson's original bill, those medically eligible to use
marijuana would include cancer and Alzheimer's patients, HIV and
hepatitis C patients, people with chronic pain, and any medical
condition resulting in hospice enrollment.

The bill would also establish a program to allow a patient to receive a
prescription for medical marijuana from a practitioner, and the patient
would need a program identification card from the Department of Health.
Participating pharmacies would distribute medical marijuana, and
licensed farmers would grow it.

Neither patients nor practitioners would be subject to arrest, according
to the bill.

The legislation would also require the General Assembly to appoint a
13-member select oversight committee on medical marijuana.

The state's Fiscal Review Office estimated that after the
program's second year, at least 10,000 patients would be registered,
but the legislation's recurring cost to the state was estimated at
about $1.5 million.

For more information go to The bill's number is
HB 2562.

No comments: