Two Republican state lawmakers are trying to drum up public support for a bill that would legalize medical cannabis. They say they need constituents to convince reluctant lawmakers, something that they think should be easier than the last time such a bill came up.
In 2015, Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, sponsored a medical marijuana bill during session that never got off the ground. But now that more than two dozens states have legalized it for medical use, he says his efforts are getting farther.
"Having now gone through this for a second time, I find the conversations to be much easier," he said. "I find the resistance to be diminishing."
Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, hope to convince fellow Republicans by highlighting medical marijuana as an alternative to addictive opioids.
But they say the real persuasion will happen through individuals telling lawmakers their stories. At a press conference Wednesday, Faison pointed to a 2-year-old girl with epilepsy whose parents convinced him to support the cause.
"We have an uphill battle with a lot of our colleagues," he said. "They have believed something their whole life, and it's very difficult to get out of your comfort zone."
He said they purposely wrote the bill's first draft to be limited in its scope. As currently written, it would allow access to marijuana for patients with a range of a dozen medical conditions, including cancer, PTSD epilepsy and intractable pain. The list could be expanded by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The bill would also allow for up to 50 growing licenses and up to 150 dispensaries in the state.