2020-21 Improvements and Recommendations

State lawmakers in Tennessee attempted to pass legislation to create a medical cannabis access program but the bill failed to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another effort seeks to supersede the creation of a comprehensive medical program entirely by putting the question of legalization for all adults on the ballot in 2022. A successful effort through the state legislature to expand the list of qualifying conditions in Tennessee was finally enacted in May 2021. 8 new conditions are now covered by Tennessee’s limited laws including Alzheimer’s, ALS, Cancer, IBS, MS, HIV/AIDS, and Sickle cell. This new expansion also included the creation of a committee to study federal and state medical cannabis laws.

In 2022, ASA recommends state lawmakers focus on building out from the state’s limited CBD access program to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program. Lawmakers can start by removing arbitrary caps on THC levels in authorized cannabis products to allow for more effective treatment. ASA recommends that lawmakers allow access for any condition a medical professional recommends it for rather than limiting access to certain conditions. ASA also encourages immediately implementing statutory protections for patients related to housing, employment, education, and parental rights. Legislators in Tennessee should consider creating a stringent set of product safety standards, and a system of third-party labs to test the safety of products. Finally, authorizing a licensing system to support cultivation and sale of in-state medical cannabis and related products to patients is a basic requirement for medical cannabis access, but legislators should also consider permitting patients and caregivers to cultivate cannabis at home for medical use. Ideally, caregivers should even have the option to become retailers themselves or to sell products tested for safety by a third-party laboratory to retailers for consumption by patients. Such a system would offer patients a greater variety of options to treat their condition, and address cost challenges cannabis patients face due to the lack of insurance coverage of cannabis products.