NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It took a quiet “aye” from Tennessee House Republican Speaker Beth Harwell, but it was her deciding vote that allowed a medical cannabis bill to avoid a quick death Tuesday afternoon at the state capitol.
The dramatic vote came in the House Criminal Justice subcommitee which has just six members.
They would have been locked 3-3 before Rep. Harwell broke the tie which can be done by Speakers.
Earlier in the cramped committee room filled with lobbyists, law enforcement and cannabis patients, one mother spoke about how the plant’s active ingredients THC helped her young daughter.
“I am here because I know it works,” mother Stacie Mathes said. “If we had THC when we had the four medications she was on, it would not have taken us 11-months and days and days and days of withdrawals.
While passionate testimony has long been a staple of such hearings before legislative committees, so has been adamant opposition from law enforcement primarily because cannabis is still classified as an illegal Schedule One substance by the Federal government.
“I am not here to practice medicine,” said TN Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Terry Ashe. “We are here to ask you all to understand we are not going to support Schedule One drugs in the state.”
Tennessee Department of Health doctors were also there, as they have been at numerous legislative hearings over the years where they remain opposed.
Dr. Michael Warren and Dr. David Reagan testified about not enough traditional medical research about the conditions cannabis could help.
“The majority of the conditions either have no support…or are limited in the National Academy of Medicine review,” testified Dr. Warren.
The bill called the Medical Cannabis Only Act does not allow smoking or inhaling of the plant.
Instead the active ingredients in cannabis would be consumed as oil through things like pills, lozenges or ointments.
While the bill passed a subcommittee, it will still have to go through at least two more committees and it hasn’t even started its journey through the Senate.