Plans to make marijuana legal for medicinal use appear unlikely to go anywhere this year in the Tennessee legislature, after one of the lawmakers behind the effort says he needs more time to build support.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, says he plans to turn his proposal to allow medical marijuana and other plans like it over to a task force that will meet after this year's legislative session. Faison has been a major supporter of medical marijuana, and he claims, in private, many lawmakers tell him they're ready to embrace it.
"I've talked to enough people who are like, 'Jeremy, if it comes to me, I'll vote for it, but I'm not going to get out in front of it'," he says. "A lot of my colleagues are scared of it."
Faison points the finger at state senators. He believes another year of study will give backers of medical marijuana a chance to provide more testimony and build their case.
Faison notes that 28 states have approved medical marijuana and others have reduced the penalties for possession. Even in Tennessee, he says, public opinion is shifting in favor of loosening restrictions on marijuana.
"There are greater political implications for being against marijuana today than there are for being for it," Faison says.
But there are plenty of skeptics in the Tennessee legislature. Springfield Republican Sabi Kumar, a physician, argues that in many of those states, "medical marijuana is nothing but an excuse for recreational use" and that it'll lead to more accidents caused by impaired driving.
Kumar says only marijuana should be allowed only if approved by the Food and Drug Administration.