Kerry Roberts

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Four bills are pending in the General Assembly that deal with marijuana. 

One bill seeks to legalize medical marijuana possessed by people from out-of-state dispensaries. The others deal with loosening restrictions on possessing small amounts of marijuana as well as changing tax definitions.

State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), said he was not yet familiar with the specific bills. He said he supports the exploration of marijuana for medical purposes but does not support recreational use of the drug.

Roberts said he also believes the conversation about decriminalizing the drug is an interesting one, but he doesn’t see the general assembly passing legislation to do so.

In reference to the bill that will allow people with medical marijuana cards from other states to possess a half-ounce of the substance, Roberts said he also doesn’t see it being passed in the legislature.

“You have to look at ... what state has the lowest standards required to issue that card and then ask yourself, would the Tennessee General Assembly pass a law that would match those lowest standards?” Roberts said. “The answer is, no they wouldn’t. That’s a great indicator that that bill will not go anywhere.”

Murfreesboro’s Rep. Dr. Bryan Terry, a Republican and an anesthesiologist, said he plans to file a medical marijuana bill this session. He has co-sponsored medical marijuana bills in the past with Sen. Dr. Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville).

Terry dismissed the pending marijuana bills, saying they are “not truly medical in nature.” They either decriminalize marijuana, supposedly for medical use, or do not establish dosage guidelines or procedures for follow-up by a medical professional.

Terry said he plans to introduce a bill that would use a medical approach.

“Some bills calling themselves medical marijuana are basically recreational,” he said. “You get a (dispensary) card and there’s no dosage guidelines, no follow-up with a provider. It’s really just a regulated recreational program. I’m talking about an actual medical program with medical guidelines.”

Some legislators have filed bills this session on recreational and medical marijuana. A search of the General Assembly website shows these filings:

Medical marijuana. SB0260/HB0234. This legislation is sponsored by Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) and Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). The bill “declares that a person who holds a valid medical marijuana patient identification card issued by another state does not commit an offense in this state if the person possesses, or distributes to another cardholder, marijuana not in excess of one-half ounce.”

Taxing marijuana. SB0257/HB1197. Sponsors are Sen. Kyle and Rep. Larry J. Miller (D-Memphis). This bill changes the definition of marijuana for tax purposes to match the definition in the criminal code.

Decriminalizing marijuana. HB0235/SB0256. Sponsors are Rep. Johnson and Sen. Kyle. This bill would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

Loosening definition of simple possession. SB1218/HB0987. Sponsors are Sen. Frank S. Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains) and Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis). This bill would increase the threshold for defining the definition of simple possession of marijuana from less than one-half ounce to less than one ounce. The bill also would prohibit “the inference of purpose of selling or otherwise dispensing when the substance possessed or exchanged was less than one ounce of marijuana.”

Reporter Elliott Wenzler contributed to this report.

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