Mother, son with cerebral palsy among locals pushing for legalization of medical marijuana
There is a renewed push to legalize medical marijuana in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee state legislature has created a task force to look at what legalization would mean for the state, the impact and how it would be controlled.
The 10-person committee is made up of two Democrats and eight Republicans, including Senator Rusty Crowe, who represents part of our region.
News 5 talked to a family who believe medical marijuana may be their last hope.
Ray Brent has been living with cerebral palsy his entire life. The condition affects not just his brain, but also, his muscles and joints.
"The bottom of my feet just really hurt, it's excruciating," Brent said.
Doctors said his pain will only get worse. He and his mom, Celia Skelton, have tried everything including surgery and therapy. But now, they're running out of options.
"I just don't want my 22-year-old son taking opioids," Skelton said.
That's when Skelton learned about the potential health benefits of medical marijuana or cannabis. But Ray hasn't been able to try it yet because it's not legal in Tennessee.
"Just knowing that he can't get that because somebody doesn't want to let us have a plant, that really makes me mad," Skelton said.
One of those decision makers is state senator Jon Lundberg, who said lawmakers legalized cannabis oil two years ago.
"We have done that," he said. "We have passed that so that with cannabis oil, those derivatives, you can get it right now in Tennessee. And it won't get you high."
But advocates of medical marijuana said that's not enough. David Michel used the oil to help with his heart condition. But he believes it may not be strong enough for more severe health problems.
Right now, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana. Michel said lawmakers in Tennessee are hurting families that only want help.
"There's millions of people that are willing to step across that proverbial line and be a criminal in order to be healthy," he said.
And he added patients should be allowed to grow their own marijuana. That is a big red flag for Lundberg who said it's not the right policy for a state that is already dealing with an opioid crisis.
And he warns people without medical problems will take advantage of it.
"I think what a lot of people want to say is 'hey, candidly, they want to smoke pot,'" Lundberg said. "So it's a cover except for very few folks."
Michel agreed if medical marijuana is legalized, there would need to be strict guidelines to prevent abuse.
"Those that are going about it the wrong way, I've got news for you. You're messing up all of our hard work. You need to be punished," Michel said.
Lundberg said he is open to hearing more facts. But it will take a lot of convincing to change his mind that this is what's best for the state.
The taskforce will meet on September 21st. Several medical marijuana advocates from our region hope to attend that hearing in Nashville.