Bill Aims For Tennessee To Legalize Medical Marijuana
by Todd Walker
NASHVILLE, Tenn - For the first time, a new poll has suggested nationally the majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.
That poll comes on the heels of a bill filed by a member of the state legislature to begin allowing medical marijuana use here in Tennessee.
There has been a dramatic shift in marijuana opinions in this country over the past 30 years.
A new CNN poll said 55 percent of the country now favors legalizing marijuana.
The poll's data said the largest groups opposed are older Americans, Republicans, and people living in the South.
In the middle of those demographics, Rep. Sherry Jones, (D) Nashville, has once again introduced a bill which would make Tennessee the 21st state to allow medical marijuana. Jones has lost count how many times she's introduced the bill, but this time around it is getting more attention.
"I believe that everybody is more interested this year than they may have in the past because there are other states looking at it," she said.
Medical marijuana has some unlikely supporters. Joan Peay said she lead PTA meetings about watching out for marijuana use in kids. Now she's a survivor of the fungal meningitis outbreak and a supporter of medical marijuana.
"It saved my life," she said. "It definitely did."
Peay relapsed and had to fight off the fungal meningitis infection a second time last year.
Tuesday she said was one of her first truly "good" days in many months. She's regaining her energy and also an appetite.
"The meningitis medication is very harsh on your body, including your stomach," Peay said.
She said the appetite is thanks mostly to some pills known as Dronabinol. Without them her nausea was unbearable. She said she was unable to keep down her other medicine, let alone food.
Dronabinol is a synthetic form of a chemical found in marijuana. She doesn't get any high from it. It just helps her to have some sort of appetite. For her this was a changing moment in the debate over medical marijuana.
"Previously I was on the fence about medical marijuana," she said. "But this really changed my mind. It saved my life."
The synthetic version Joan takes is very expensive. She said $300 for a month's supply.
Rep. Jones believes legalizing medical marijuana would bring costs down to help people like Joan as well as cancer patients, soldiers with PTSD and plenty more.
"I don't know that Tennessee is ready for total legalization," Jones said. "But I'm hoping that Tennessee is ready to help people who have serious medical issues that marijuana will help."
Jones said her brother died from Crohn's Disease a few years ago. She said medical marijuana would have eased his suffering considerably. According to Jones, the bill would have very strict guidelines because although the opinions on marijuana are changing, Tennessee still has very conservative views compared to the rest of the nation.
"First you're very conservative," Jones said. "You see how it goes. You get your numbers. You see what the statistics are and then you go from there."
The state stands to make big money if passed. Jones said the plants would be taxed around 20 percent.
Some of the requirements, she said, is medical marijuana could only be grown on organic farms and only prescribed by licensed doctors for legitimate needs.
When asked for opinions on the NewsChannel 5 Facebook page hundreds of comments poured in within a couple of hours.
Fierce debate came with those comments. Those opposed to the idea of medical marijuana are concerned about abuse of the system and people getting addicted to it. The vast majority were in favor.
In the end, it comes down to the favor of the legislature. Historically it has been a resounding "no" vote.