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TN senators optimistic that medical marijuana legislation could pass in near future

Marijuana legalization in Tennessee has been a hot topic of discussion for years, and lawmaker attitudes on the idea are slowly changing.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The push to legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee continues to face an uphill battle, but that hill is starting to flatten.

Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) sponsored a bill this session that would have decriminalized the drug for specific medical purposes, but it narrowly failed in committee Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) said there was not enough background information to determine how medical marijuana eases symptoms for specific illnesses. 

“But what's happening right now with the bill, I call it the legislature's practicing medicine,” said State Senator Richard Briggs. “They’re determining which conditions, which chronic conditions that marijuana is effective for, which ones it isn't effective for which diseases you can use to treat it. And we just have no background in that at all.”

However, support for legalizing marijuana has been steadily rising on both sides of the aisle in the state over the past few years.

“Well, obviously, to be some help to some very sick Tennesseans,” said Massey. 

The bill was scheduled to go before the Senate in a few days after passing the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the House Bill counterpart narrowly failed in the House Criminal Justice Committee -- effectively stalling the legislation this session.

Still, this bill saw the most bipartisan support of any marijuana bill in recent history. 

“That the attitudes toward marijuana, I think are changing. And I would just hope that the Food and Drug Administration would act very quickly,” said Massey. 

Massey said with criminal justice reform -- decriminalization makes sense. 

“Do we want to be criminalizing Tennesseans instead of just trying to get some relief from some sick Tennesseans and illnesses where traditional medicine has not been able to work for?” she said.

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