Bryan Terry, Beth Harwell support medical marijuana bill

Feb 28, 2018 at 11:30 am by Voice Wire

Legalized Marijuana

Rutherford County Rep. Bryan Terry, along with Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, signed on as co-sponsors to the Medical Cannabis Only Act, the Tennessee Republican Party said in a press release.

Both Harwell and Terry, who is a physician and chairman of the House Health Subcommittee, believe that inaction at the federal level is harming patients. 

"The inaction and hypocritical stance at the federal level puts many patients in a bind and hinders medical research and treatment. States need to stand up for patients," Terry, R-Murfreesboro, said.

The Medical Cannabis Only Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, would allow chemical extracts from cannabis in an oil-based form to be used for strictly defined medical purposes.

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"I believe it is time for us to take action on the state level with regards to medical marijuana," Harwell said. "I am in favor of this legislation, which does not allow for the smoking of medical marijuana--I am not in favor of that approach. However, the federal government continues to be a roadblock to legitimate research or medical uses of medical cannabis, but other states have enacted laws to help patients, and Tennessee should do the same."

Use of the raw plant and flower would still be illegal. Tennessee allows for the use of marijuana-derived CBD oil in the treatment of certain medical conditions with a prescription. The state also allows the sale and use of industrial-hemp derived CBD oil with little restrictions.

The Act would require a specific diagnosis from a physician, a consultation with a pharmacist for medicine therapy management, and expand research into medical uses of cannabis in Tennessee. An appointed commission would set dosage amounts for patients. The bill is permissive which means that counties would need to pass a referendum to allow and regulate participation in their communities. 

"Adding a non-opioid modality, such as cannabis extracts, to the arsenal of treatment options for pain can certainly be beneficial in the war on opioid abuse, but there are other conditions that the bill addresses like Crohn's Disease and seizure disorders which can help Tennesseans. Cannabis oils are not a panacea, but for some patients, it can make all the difference in their quality of life. As opposed to the unknown of recreational or pseudo-medical cannabis, this bill is structured with the patient and true medical therapies in mind," Terry said.

One such patient whose life changed with cannabis-based treatment is Alexis Bortell, the 12-year-old from Texas who is suing the Federal government over her medications.

She developed intractable seizures at the age of seven, and by age nine, had tried and failed multiple medication regimens. Faced with a high-risk medication or brain surgery, her family, with the guidance of physicians, opted to move to Colorado and try cannabis-based therapy.

By day 33, she quit having seizures and has been seizure-free for three years. Though willing to testify before the House in support of the Medical Cannabis Only Act, state and federal laws prohibit her traveling with her medication.

"My dad and I spoke to Dr. Terry about my situation. I am living proof that treating with medical cannabis can change and save people's lives," Alexis said.

She said the biggest risk to using the marijuana-derived drug is the federal restrictions.

"I live a normal and productive life. No more seizures. No more hospital visits. No more talk of experimental brain surgery. I've been told that there are around 70,000 Tennesseans with seizure disorders and about 5,000 of those are kids like me," she said.

Terry said Alexis's story struck home because he has a 9-year-old daughter. 

"Having spoken with them on various occasions, they absolutely made the right decision, and it's one we would make for our daughter if faced with the same circumstances," Terry said. "We need to fix draconian laws that force families into those situations."

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