Medical Marijuana Debates Goes Before State Committee

November 12, 2007

, WKRN TV (Nashville)

Whether medical marijuana is beneficial for chronically ill patients and should be allowed in Tennessee was focus of a study Tuesday at Legislative Plaza.

The discussion stems from a proposed bill that would protect seriously ill Tennessee patients from arrest for using doctor-recommended medical marijuana.

Both sides of the debate went before the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.

Advocates said medical marijuana is the only way many Aids and cancer patients can relieve their symptoms.

Bernie Ellis said the drug relieved his chronic pain caused by degenerative joint disease and fibromyalgia.

He used the drug for nearly two decades.

“With consultation of my doctors, we decided marijuana might be a useful alternative and it was,” said Ellis.  “I was able to use very little.  Normally, the first part of the day and then go about my business."

Opponents argue marijuana has no proven therapeutic value and may not be safe or effective.

Dr. David Murray is the Chief Scientist for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

He said, “The claims made from marijuana are really quite enormous and the problem is they haven't been shown in a court of science to actually be real.  Thedanger is, in many instances, you might actually be harming the patient."

Federal law doesn't recognize state statutes that allow medical marijuana use.

By legalizing the drug, Dr. Murray said Tennessee would be making a big mistake.

He said, “That’s why we have the FDA, why we have the court of medicine so we don't make those kinds of mistakes  Medical marijuana approved by the judicial process is an unsafe remedy that jeopardizes our medical system."  

Committee members heard testimony about the bill but did not vote on it.

Twelve states currently allow medical marijuana use with no penalties.

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