The treatment of her sister’s back injury has caused Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell to reevaluate Tennessee’s ban on medical marijuana.
Harwell, who is speaker of the state House of Representatives, told a Republican gathering earlier this month that allowing medical marijuana has come up as part of a discussion about how to tackle the state’s opioid crisis.
The longtime Nashville representative said her sister was recently prescribed opioids after breaking her back.
“She was in a yoga class and came down out of a shoulder stand the wrong way,” Harwell said. “And she was, of course, in a great deal of pain.”
But after the initial doses, she wanted to stop taking the painkillers.
“She called me and said, ‘I want you to know that if I continue this opioid regimen I will become addicted to opioids,’” Harwell said. “She said, ‘There was no doubt in my mind.’”
Harwell’s sister lives in Colorado where marijuana has been legalized, so she decided to send her husband out to buy her some of the drug, which she consumed mixed with coconut oil for four or five days until she felt better.
“So I have some personal interest in this now,” Harwell said.
Harwell said she still opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana, citing her experience visiting her daughter when she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“If you visit Boulder, you won’t be for the recreational use of marijuana,” she said.
Harwell earlier this year formed a House task force to work on proposals to address opioid and prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. She said the panel will evaluate medical marijuana as part of that process.
“We’re open to that, we’re looking at that,” said Harwell, though she cautioned that the Republican group of state lawmakers remains wary about the issue.
Harwell is running for the Republican nomination to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam. Her Republican rivals include state Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, and businessmen Randy Boyd of Knoxville and Bill Lee of Franklin.
The state’s gubernatorial primary will be held on Aug. 2, 2018.