As Tennessee lawmakers begin discussions about possibly allowing
medical marijuana in Tennessee, the top-tier candidates seeking to
replace Gov. Bill Haslam have vastly different opinions.
While legalizing medical marijuana in Tennessee has been brought up in
the legislature several times in recent years, House Speaker Beth
Harwell, who announced her run for governor in July, made headlines
when she said she was open to the idea.
Last month, Harwell said a treatment using marijuana for her sister's
back injury caused her to reconsider whether the Volunteer State
should embrace medical cannabis, the Associated Press reported.
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Educating lawmakers and the general public will be a key component of
the recently formed legislative committee tasked with tackling medical
marijuana, according to one of the legislators heading up the panel.
"I think one of the goals is to make sure that the people and the
advocates and the patients are aware of what we're doing and make sure
that they give feedback to their elected officials," said Sen. Steve
Dickerson, R-Nashville, who along with Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby,
are heading up a legislative committee to study the issue.
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I was truly amazed when I heard that Beth Harwell, erstwhile
gubernatorial candidate and reefer madness maven, said she was "open"
to medicinal cannabis here in Tennessee.
This is a major reversal of policy for Ms. Harwell.
What changed her mind? She says her sister's positive experience with
state legal medicinal cannabis products in Colorado while recovering
from a broken back made her rethink the issue.
Thousands of Tennesseans have, for years now, been asking Ms. Harwell
and her fellow Republicans for a medical cannabis program, as can be
found in 29 other states so far, to treat illnesses such as my wife's
multiple sclerosis. For years now, our pleas have fallen on deaf
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - 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
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The rate of hospitalizations for Tennesseans 65 years and older due to
painkillers has more than tripled in a decade.
Older adults are being hospitalized for reasons that range from falls
and auto accidents after taking pain pills to unintentional overdoses,
interactions with other medications and weakened kidney or liver
functions in aging bodies that fail to metabolize the drug in the same
way as younger people.
Experts say physicians and family members are more likely to overlook
addiction in senior citizens -- even after opioids require a trip to
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A state lawmaker said he will propose legislation
in January to tighten laws governing bounty hunters and bonding agents
in the wake of a fatal shooting in Clarksville.
On Wednesday, Rep. Joe Pitts held a meeting with representatives from
the Tennessee Sheriff's Association, Tennessee Association of
Professional Bail Agents, Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley and
Montgomery County Sheriff John Fuson, among others.
Pitts said the meeting was sparked by a series of articles by The
Leaf-Chronicle that examined laws pertaining to bounty hunters and
bonding agents. In some cases, the laws are unclear. In others, the
laws are simply being ignored.
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Authorities on Wednesday closed a West Knoxville apartment that the
Knox County District Attorney General's Office called "a modern-day
Apartment 3 at 2818 Dayton St. has been the scene of several overdoses
- -- one resulting in death -- over the past five months, according to a
statement from the District Attorney General's Office.
In the fatal overdose, police believe one of the apartment's
residents, Cassandra Deann Canupp, supplied the victim with drugs,
according to the statement. The victim died of fentanyl and cocaine
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The Knoxville Police Department is seeking a federal grant to bring a
research-based approach to countering opioid abuse.
Judy Jenkins keeps her medication in a bucket stored in a pantry instead
of the medicine cabinet.(Photo: Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean)
The Knoxville Police Department is seeking a federal grant to bring a
research-based approach to countering one of the city's and the
Tennessee's fastest-growing epidemics - opioid abuse.
City Council members are set to vote on a resolution Tuesday night that,
if approved, would give KPD permission to apply for a 2017 Smart Policing
Initiative grant worth up to $700,000 over three years.
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Federal officials have said they want to work with Tennessee to curb the
opioid epidemic.(Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto)
If you're looking for a safe way to dispose of prescription drugs, head
over to the Brentwood Municipal Center on April 30.
The Brentwood Police Department will participate in the National
Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Residents can drop off prescription drugs
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day was established to provide a
safe, convenient and responsible way of disposing of prescription drugs,
while also educating the public about the potential for abuse of
medications. Brentwood police officers will be on hand at the Brentwood
Municipal Center during the event.
According to the DEA, prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is at "alarming
rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to
For more information visit https://brentwood-tn.org.
Mt. Juliet Police conducted a search warrant Tuesday afternoon as part of
a heroin and methamphetamine investigation that closed Old Lebanon Dirt
Road near Nighthawk Lane.
The search warrant included explosions that police described as
"flashbangs," which were deployed as distractions because of information
the individuals inside may have been armed, Mt. Juliet Police Lt. Tyler
"So, using distraction methods, helps minimize risk for the Special
Response Team members making entry," Chandler said.
Old Lebanon Dirt Road between Nighthawk Lane and Eagle Trace Drive was
closed for a period of time before being reopened.
The Tennessean will provide additional information as details become
"Prevention is preferable to cure." These words are part of the modern
Hippocratic Oath, which guide my work and the work of my fellow physicians
across our state. Today we are facing a crisis that demands a preventive
solution: prescription painkiller abuse.
The stakes are real -- I've heard too many heart-wrenching tales of lives
lost and families torn apart. We know many of these addicts never intended
to be drug abusers, but began with a real need to treat pain from injuries
or other medical conditions.
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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, left, talks with US Secretary of
Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and audience members during a town hall meeting
on how to deal with the opioid addiction in Appalachia on Thursday, June
30, 2016 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center on in Abingdon,
VA. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)
Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture talks about opioid addiction
during a town hall meeting with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Southwest Virginia Higher
Education Center on Thursday, June 30, 2016 in Abingdon, VA.(SAUL
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Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan speaks as the
Regional Forensic Center released its 2010-2015 Drug-related Death Report
for Knox And Anderson Counties Monday, August 15, 2016 in the small
assembly room at the City-County Building. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)
Dr. Amy Hawes, assistant medical examiner, explains a portion of the
Regional Forensic Center's 2010-2015 Drug-related Death Report for Knox
And Anderson Counties on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, in the Small Assembly Room
at the City County Building. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)
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Tennessee looks at making naloxone, an easy-to-administer drug that can
reverse the effects of opioid drug overdoses, widely available without a
prescription. But will over-reliance on the medication be a long-term side
[photo] Thomas Clemons instructs people visiting a Baltimore needle
exchange van on how to use naloxone to reverse heroin overdoses. More and
more states, including Tennessee, are looking at the easy-to-administer
drug as a way to stem increasing opioid overdose deaths.(Photo: Amy
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NASHVILLE - Medical marijuana will again become a topic of discussion
and legislation during the 2017 legislative session.
An announcement from the House Republican Caucus on Friday said an
official announcement will come next week from state Rep. Jeremy
Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, RNashville, who are
planning to introduce legislation about medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana has been a popular discussion within the legislature
in recent years, and support from both parties has been steadily
growing. Details about the legislation were not immediately clear.
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NASHVILLE - Willie Nelson's famous habit of smoking marijuana is not
seen as a badge of outlaw courage here anymore, so much as the
frivolous foible of an eccentric uncle. A popular FM station
disgorging the Boomer rock hits of yesteryear calls itself Hippie
Radio 94.5; one of its sponsors is a smoke shop that incessantly hawks
glass pipes and detox kits. Even mainstream country acts mention
smoking marijuana now and again among the litany of acceptable
So perhaps it is not surprising as much as telling that this city,
which residents often refer to as the Buckle of the Bible Belt, may be
on the cusp of joining the long roster of American cities, including
New York, that have decriminalized the stuff.
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"Your libertarian streak is showing."
That's what one of my friends said earlier this week when I told him
what I planned on writing about today. Well, sure, I may harbor
libertarian sentiments, but it seems lately that folks at multiple
points across the political spectrum are willing to consider a
recalibration of existing marijuana laws.
The days of fearing "reefer madness" are waning. Yes, even in Tennessee.
Playing the role of bellwether on this opinion shift is the Nashville
Metro Council, which voted 32-4 on Tuesday to move a marijuana
decriminalization bill forward. Now it heads to committee phase,
where its nuances will be discussed more thoroughly for further votes.
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Everyone seems suddenly concerned about drug use and drug addiction.
After years of losing the "War on Drugs," many are trying new
approaches. An example is the police chief who has set up a voluntary
program whereby users and addicts can hand in their drugs and agree
to submit to treatment. No criminal charges are made. The humanity of
the program is captured in the insistence the word "junkie" will never be used.
So what's going on with the chief and his program? Obviously he has
plenty of firsthand contact with countless users/addicts. He knows
real progress is not in a jail cell but in medical and or psychiatric
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Did you know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of
Independence on paper made from hemp? Or that Christopher Columbus
used hemp ropes and sails on his ships?
Van Gogh and Rembrandt painted on hemp canvas, and until the early
1800s, most legal tender in the Americas was made from cannabis hemp.
Maps, Bibles, log books and clothes have been made in part from hemp.
It's been around since at least 8000 B.C. We know this because the
oldest relic of human history dates from that time.
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Congress and President Obama are under pressure to reschedule
marijuana. While rescheduling makes sense, it doesn't solve the
state/federal conflict over marijuana (descheduling would be better).
But more important, it wouldn't fix the broken scheduling system.
Ideally, marijuana reform should be part of a broader bill rewriting
the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act created a five-category scheduling
system for most legal and illegal drugs (although alcohol and tobacco
were notably omitted). Depending on what category a drug is in, the
drug is either subject to varying degrees of regulation and control
(Schedules II through V) - or prohibited, otherwise unregulated and
left to criminals to manufacture and distribute (Schedule I). The
scheduling of various drugs was decided largely by Congress and
absent a scientific process - with some strange results.
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In six months, California will join Maine, Nevada and probably a few
other states in deciding whether to legalize large-scale commercial
production of marijuana. Residents will be inundated with wild claims
about the promises and pitfalls of these initiatives.
You will hear debates about government revenue, criminal justice
benefits, the environment and the effect of legalization on Mexican
drug-trafficking cartels. Public health conversations may prove
especially contentious. Some will claim that legalization will
constitute a net gain for health. Others will say the exact opposite.
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Since 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled
Substances Act, marijuana has been a Schedule I drug. Congress placed
it in the most restrictive category of psychoactive substances, those
with no currently accepted medical value and a high potential for
abuse or dependence. The upshot was a renewed ban on marijuana,
except for highly restricted research purposes.
I say renewed because Congress first prohibited marijuana use for
non-industrial purposes in 1937. The Schedule I designation ratified
the status quo, with one notable exception: The 1970 CSA in fact
reduced federal penalties for cannabis possession, a bit of Nixon-era
liberality few recall.
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There are rumors that the federal government may soon lift its ban on
marijuana, but that wouldn't end marijuana prohibitions in the United
States. This incongruity is the result of federalism: the ability of
each jurisdiction - the federal government and every state - to
maintain its own laws as to which drugs are illegal and which are not.
Completely legalizing marijuana in the United States would require
the actions of both the federal government and every state
government. If the federal government repealed its criminal
prohibition of marijuana or rescheduled the drug under federal law,
that would not change state laws that forbid its possession or sale.
Likewise, state governments can repeal their marijuana laws, in whole
or in part, but that does not change federal law.
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H.R. 4378 Addresses the Need to Provide Treatment Facilities for
Those Already Bound by Addiction.
Education and Prevention Are Imperative in Fighting the Epidemic, but
Don't Work by Themselves. the Economic Advantage of Treating Addicts
Is Huge, When Factoring in Health Care and Judicial Costs.
Since Nancy Reagan first spoke the familiar words "Just say no" in
1982, this country has been engaged in a war on drugs that to some
seems unwinnable. There is currently a piece of legislation in
Congress that takes a different approach to the matter. Rather than
solely focusing on prevention of substance abuse, the Access to
Substance Abuse Treatment Act of 2016 (H.R. 4378) addresses the
overwhelming need to provide treatment facilities for those already
bound by the chains of addiction to heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine,
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) and phencyclidine (PCP).
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A bill that would have allowed Tennesseans to weigh in on whether to
decriminalize possession of low-level amounts of marijuana has failed
in the Legislature. The Senate Judiciary Committee killed the
proposal April 12.
The measure, which was sponsored by Memphis Democrats Antonio
Parkinson and Sara Kyle, would not have legalized marijuana
possession. Instead, it would have allowed voters to make their
opinion known on whether police should arrest people in possession of
one ounce of marijuana or less or give them a warning instead.
The proposal would have allowed Metro governments or municipalities
with their own police departments to put the question on whether to
arrest or warn to voters during a normal election. The results of the
election would be advisory only.
If "reason and honesty" were part of the public discourse regarding
cannabis (marijuana) prohibition (Letter: "Marijuana misinformation,"
by Bob Alley, April 3, 2016), it would never have been orchestrated
from the beginning.
Historically, its existence is due to racism, greed and the omission
It's truly mistaken to claim, "Medical science has access to drugs
that provide more relief with less damage than does pot," since
cannabis often competes with opiates, which are responsible for an
epidemic of addiction and death rates in America. Scientifically,
cannabis is safer than aspirin and less addictive than coffee.
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Re: "Culture of healing needed to battle painkiller addiction," by
David Plazas, April 8.
In response to your article, I would like to express how strongly I
agree that our culture relies entirely too much on painkillers.
Recently my stepfather had a neck surgery, and as expected, he was in
a considerable amount of pain after the procedure. After being
prescribed 60 Percocet pills, he took a total of five. When asked
why, this was what he said: "I was more scared of being addicted to
the painkillers than I was of the pain."
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Having read your articles on overdose and abuse of opioids, I had to
wonder your aim in these reports and to notice that your advertisers
were rehab and insurance companies.
To everyone who has lost a loved one to overdose, my sympathy, but to
state that opioids are not an effective means of pain management for
chronic pain is inconceivable. For the help that I experience through
them, it is an oasis in an otherwise consistent sea of hurt.
Having lived through the 1980s and 1990s of toughing it out and
taking an aspirin, suddenly pain was a concern I dealt with.
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A former corrections officer was sentenced to one year plus one day
in prison and an inmate was sentenced to 30 months in prison for a
scheme to smuggle marijuana into the Federal Correctional Institution
in Memphis, the office of U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III said Monday.
The corrections officer, Keair Kemp, 33, of Horn Lake, and inmate
Travonte Johnson, 34, of Millington, planned last year to smuggle the
drug into the prison, according to a news release.
"In exchange for cash, Kemp agreed to unlawfully carry marijuana into
the prison and deliver it to Johnson, thus violating his official
duties as a correctional officer," Stanton's spokesman, Louis
Goggans, said in the release.
Kemp pleaded guilty in December 2015 to one count of accepting a
bribe, and Johnson pleaded guilty in January to one count of offering
a bribe to a public official, Goggans said.
Re: "Cannabis prohibition does more harm than good," by Cecily Friday
Shamim, and "Patients deserve access to medical marijuana," by
Allison Barker Watson, Sunday Insight, March 27.
Please be more objective and honest in your selection of guest
editorial writers than your March 27 "Point/Counterpoint," which
contained two letters from pot lobbyists who used emotion rather than
science to encourage our society toward addiction and brain damage.
Google: "Harvard Pot Study" to learn of the long-term damage in
casual pot users to "...the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala - key
regions for emotion and motivation, and associated with addiction."
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Former first lady Nancy Reagan hadn't been dead for hours Sunday when
the knives came out.
Her "Just Say No" to drugs campaign, one left-wing organization said,
had a "disastrous legacy." Another one opined that the slogan "helped
America lose the war on drugs."
"The problem was," an article on ThinkProgress.org said, "'just
saying no' to drugs didn't actually work." Really? It's a simplistic
statement, to be sure, but, in fact, actually just saying no to drugs
works every time it is tried. Each time someone refuses an offer of
drugs makes it easier to just turn down an offer the next time out.
Eventually, refusing drugs - always the right thing to do - becomes ingrained.
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I'm sure Dr. Greg Elam means well (Re: "Live Drug-Free," Jan. 14),
however, cannabis (marijuana) isn't a "drug" but rather a God-given
plant as described on literally the very first page of the Bible.
The plant cannabis should not be compared with drugs that kill "50
people a day" since it has not killed one single person in over 5,000
years of documented medical use. That's safety on a Biblical scale.
A sane or moral argument to cage sick citizens for using cannabis
Stan White, Dillon, Col. 80435
Re: "Tennessee must get with the times on medical marijuana," by
David Hairston, Dec. 13.
Regarding Mr. Hairston's article about legalizing medical marijuana,
I found the logic faulty for the following reasons:
The statement that "God designed our bodies to use cannabinoids to
maintain health " because cannabinoid receptors have been identified
is like saying "God intends us to have cancer or diabetes because we
have the genes for those."
Our bodies adapt to the environment and use the food and chemicals we
put in them trying to best achieve a balance of chemicals in the
brain. However, when we are out of balance in one area, the brain
will seek to remedy it in another, thus the reason for using
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States that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via
dispensaries possess 24.8 percent lower rates of opioid addiction and
overdose deaths than states where medical marijuana is illegal,
according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic
Research, a nonpartisan think tank.
In Tennessee in 2014, deaths from opioid overdose exceeded deaths by
car accident and also exceeded deaths by gunshot.
Opioid overdose deaths in Tennessee have also increased by around 10
percent per year since 2012. It is by all accounts an epidemic. In
the meantime, no deaths have been reported from marijuana overdose,
and the reason is that marijuana does not shut down a person's breathing.
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Are we sure, Tennessee? Are we absolutely sure that marijuana
legalization isn't in our best interest?
While not a native of this state, I am rapidly learning that highway
maintenance isn't a priority here.
Now, I don't know about you, but if a citizen wants to blaze in his
own home, it should be his right. Let that consumer go to his local
dispensary, make his purchase and contribute (above the outrageous
nearly 10 percent sales taxes) to the general fund.
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