Pubdate: Tue, 22 Dec 2015
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2015 The Commercial Appeal
Author: Tom Humphrey


Says Exception Aims to Benefit PTSD Sufferers

NASHVILLE - While most Tennessee Republican leaders have indicated 
opposition to any steps toward legalization of marijuana, state Rep. 
Jeremy Faison said he hopes they will make an exception for military 
veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Faison, R-Cosby, is drafting legislation that would "decriminalize" 
possession of marijuana by veterans diagnosed with PTSD, motivated by 
conversations with several veterans who believe the medicinal 
properties of marijuana would help them far more than prescription medications.

"Pills have side effects. ... The No. 1 side effect is suicide," said 
Faison in an interview last week. "Twenty-eight veterans a day in 
America are committing suicide."

"For most ailments man has, God has a remedy," Faison said, quoting 
his wife, who has a master's degree in nutrition. In many cases, the 
legislator said, he believes that is marijuana.

His bill will be "very narrowly tailored" to apply only to veterans, 
Faison said, because those who have served the country warrant 
special attention and, perhaps more important, legislators' support 
for veterans might outweigh their reluctance to be seen as backing 
marijuana use.

At a late November state Senate hearing, Tennessee Health 
Commissioner John Dreyzehner told legislators that "the weight of 
evidence" from medical research indicates that medical marijuana 
legalization would "do more harm than good to the overall population 
of our state," and Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said it could 
cause many problems for law enforcement officers.

Gov. Bill Haslam, citing that testimony, subsequently said he sees 
little chance of medical marijuana legislation in general receiving 
lawmaker approval in 2016, but added, "An effort might surprise me."

Legislators have repeatedly killed medical marijuana legislation in 
the past. Last session, lawmakers did approve a measure - sponsored 
by Faison - that legalizes possession of cannabis oil extract for 
treatment for certain specified ailments. But they rejected bills 
that would have authorized use of marijuana directly - one a 
Republican-sponsored measure that had far more restrictions and 
limits than the other, sponsored by Democrats led by Rep. Sherry 
Jones of Nashville.

Jones, a longtime advocate for medical marijuana, said she thought 
Faison's proposal "just isn't fair" because it would benefit one 
limited group of residents and not others suffering from the same 
medical conditions. She cited the case of a police officer she knows 
who is in a wheelchair because of seizures but who is not a veteran.

Jones said the bill could raise legal questions about the U.S. 
Constitution's requirement for equal treatment under the law. Still, 
Jones said she would vote for the bill as at least offering a benefit 
to a "little piece of the population" who needs it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom