In 1996, California grew to become the primary state to legalize medical hashish. Since then, 36 states (and 4 U.S. territories) have adopted go well with, maintaining tempo with quickly evolving insurance policies and attitudes towards hashish. Along with the widespread legalization of medical hashish, 18 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized hashish for grownup use.
As one in every of 14 states that haven’t legalized medical hashish beneath state regulation, Tennessee is within the minority, even within the South. In reality, 5 of Tennessee’s neighboring states have legalized hashish for both medical (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri) or grownup use (Virginia). And Mississippi seems to be on the verge of legalizing medical hashish, too (as we’ve written about here, here, and here).
Tennessee’s present coverage concerning hashish doesn’t seem to replicate the attitudes of its voters. In accordance with a 2018 ballot performed by Center Tennessee State College, most Tennesseans (roughly 81%) help some type of legalization, with 44% supporting medical use and 37% supporting adult-use legalization. This widespread reputation has even caught the eye of some Tennessee state representatives who’re personally against legalizing medical hashish.
For instance, Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-D75) launched legislation final July that may have required county election commissions to put three non-binding questions on the poll asking voters whether or not Tennessee ought to (1) decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana; (2) legalize medical marijuana; or (3) legalize adult-use marijuana. Rep. Griffey launched an announcement clarifying that whereas he was personally “towards the legalization of marijuana,” his “private opinion mustn’t dictate” that marijuana stays unlawful beneath state regulation if legalization is what Tennessee voters need.
So the place does Tennessee stand on medical hashish now? And the place would possibly it head? These questions are the main target of this text, which is the primary in our sequence on hashish in Tennessee.
Wait, Tennessee Already Has a Medical Hashish Program?
Some readers could also be shocked to study that Tennessee technically has a medical hashish program in place. Laws that took impact in Could 2021 permits people with sure qualifying situations and a doctor’s suggestion to own cannabidiol (CBD) oil containing as much as 0.9% THC. Notably, Tennessee’s 0.9% THC threshold is thrice larger than the 0.3% THC restrict for authorized “hemp” beneath federal regulation (which we wrote about here). The 0.3-0.9% THC oil approved by Tennessee regulation thus qualifies as federally unlawful “marijuana” beneath the Managed Substances Act.
In sensible phrases, Tennessee’s program is so restricted that it does little to alter the established order. This system’s underlying situation is that it doesn’t present for in-state manufacturing of CBD oil containing THC larger than the 0.3% federal restrict. Because of this, certified Tennessee sufferers should procure their “medical hashish” oil exterior the state. Coupling this in-state manufacturing ban with the restrictive 0.9% THC restrict reveals Tennessee’s present statutory regime to be a “medical hashish program” in title solely.
Tennessee Medical Hashish Fee – An Essential First Step
However change could also be on the horizon. The identical statute that minimally expanded Tennessee’s medical hashish program additionally established Tennessee’s Medical Hashish Fee, whose purpose is to “function a useful resource for the examine of federal and state legal guidelines concerning medical hashish and the preparation of laws to ascertain an efficient, patient-focused medical hashish program[.]” However the statute doesn’t but “authorize a medical hashish program to function” in Tennessee, and “licenses for such a program shall not be issued … till marijuana is faraway from Schedule I of the federal Managed Substances Act.”
The statute directs the Fee to “look at federal legal guidelines, the effectiveness of different states’ legal guidelines and laws, and legal guidelines and laws in [Tennessee] referring to the medical use of hashish,” and requires that the Fee think about points referring to many broad classes, including:
- Which sufferers ought to qualify for medical hashish
- How sufferers ought to apply to obtain medical hashish
- What physicians, nurse practitioners, and doctor assistants’ respective roles are in recommending and prescribing medical hashish
- What pharmacists’ roles are in recommending, prescribing, and meting out hashish
- Licensing and regulating “cultivation, processing, labeling, transporting, delivery, and distributing” medical hashish
- Product security testing
- What the function of assorted state departments, companies, and boards in regulating medical hashish is
- What regulation enforcement’s function is in medical hashish
- Taxes and costs for medical hashish
- Creating a “advisable normal of care” for medical hashish
- Affected person reciprocity with different states which have legalized medical hashish beneath state regulation
The statute requires that the Fee put together suggestions for “how finest to ascertain an efficient, patient-focused medical hashish program,” together with proposed laws that should “create an unbiased and financially self-sufficient Fee … to manage this system.” The Fee should submit a report containing these suggestions and proposals to the Tennessee Legislature by January 1 of every 12 months. The Fee has already offered the 2021 report back to the Legislature, however it has not but been made public.
The Fee’s conferences are open to the general public and live-streamed. The following assembly is about for January 28, 2022, 9 a.m. CT.
Huge Image Questions for the Fee
Given the Fee’s statutory function is to craft a real medical hashish program based mostly on their evaluation of what works and what doesn’t amongst present medical hashish states, it’s critically vital for the hashish trade to start educating the Fee on these factors. Whereas there are quite a few questions the Fee should analyze to craft an efficient program, a few of the largest are:
- Will Tennessee undertake a “limited-license” or “open-license” regime? Underneath a limited-license regime, states authorize a restricted variety of licenses to domesticate, course of, or dispense hashish, that are issued following a aggressive software course of. Underneath an open-license regime, states present licenses to all firms that meet the regulatory requirements. Examples of limited-license states embrace Alabama (which we’ve written about here). Examples of open-license states embrace Oklahoma.
- Will there be a social fairness part? Social fairness provisions in hashish statutes take many kinds. From the minority-owned enterprise perspective, an important varieties are people who require the state’s licensing authority to situation a sure variety of licenses to such companies (Alabama has adopted this model). Extra broadly, many states’ hashish statutes present for expungement of previous hashish offenses and/or direct hashish tax income to communities impacted by the Battle on Medicine.
- What would be the qualifying situations for sufferers to acquire a medical card? Tennessee’s present statute permits sufferers with the next situations to acquire 0.9% THC oil: (1) Alzheimer’s illness; (2) amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); (3) most cancers, when such illness is identified as end-stage or the remedy produces associated losing sickness, nausea and vomiting, or ache; (4) inflammatory bowel illness, together with Crohn’s illness and ulcerative colitis; (5) epilepsy or seizures; (6) a number of sclerosis; (7) Parkinson’s illness; (8) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); and (9) sickle cell illness. The Fee appears prone to discover expansions to this checklist.
- Will Tennessee impose a residency requirement for hashish licensees? Many states solely situation hashish licenses to firms with majority possession attributable to in-state residents. Whether or not these residency necessities cross muster beneath the U.S. Structure is much from clear (as we’ve written about here).
- Will Tennessee permit affected person reciprocity? Some states, akin to Arkansas, permit sufferers from different states to acquire a customer’s card that enables them to buy medical hashish within the state. Different states don’t present for such “customer playing cards.”
- Will Tennessee authorize a real medical hashish program earlier than marijuana is de-scheduled on the federal stage? That is anybody’s guess. As famous above, Tennessee’s present statute makes federal de-scheduling a prerequisite for the enlargement of medical hashish in Tennessee. However the legalization tide is shifting rapidly, even within the South, and one can think about the tax income in neighboring states incentivizing the Tennessee Legislature to expedite the method if Washington gridlock continues to delay hashish reform on the federal stage.
Whereas the timeline for medical hashish legalization in Tennessee seems lengthy, historical past reveals that it doesn’t take a lot for legalization efforts to select up pace. Tennessee establishing the Medical Hashish Fee is a crucial first step, and one which the trade hopes will permit for Tennessee to keep away from a few of the errors its sister states have made as these states stood up their respective packages.
We are going to proceed to watch the Fee’s conferences and write in regards to the evolving authorized panorama for medical hashish in Tennessee.