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In 2014, Tennessee legislators passed SB 2531, which changed the definition of marijuana to create a legal exception for the possession and use of low-THC, CBD-rich cannabis oil solely by patients with intractable seizures. The law authorizes a state university to grow and manufacture the oil, which can have no more than 0.9 percent THC. Revisions were made to the law in 2016 clarifying that only patients with a legal recommendation may possess CBD oils with no more than 0.9 percent THC.
In 2017, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Governor Randy McNally ordered the formation of the legislature’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis to review the impact of medical cannabis in Tennessee. The committee met three times in 2017 before several lawmakers assigned to it organized comprehensive medical access legislation to be introduced in the 2018 legislative session. Unfortunately, that legislative effort was not successful.
Despite minor changes in 2016, Tennessee has failed to make any significant changes to its program, and still lacks a system for in-state production and dispensing, civil protections for patients, and product safety guidelines. Additionally, in 2016, Tennessee had 1,631 individuals die from opioid overdose which could have been mitigated by the state offering a comprehensive medical cannabis program that included chronic pain. Tennessee could also improve its medical cannabis program by avoiding arbitrary limits on THC.
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