The Senior Center at Ashland City was the site for a forum about the potential use and impact of medical marijuana if allowed by the state.
The Cheatham County Democratic Party hosted the event, led by Roger Marriott.
The featured speakers were: Knoxville State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a sponsor of pro-legalization legislation; Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove; David Hairston, board chair of the Safe Access advocacy program; Matt Binkley, senior systems administrator at the Vanderbilt Advanced Computing Center; and Dr. Jim Powers, Director, Vanderbilt-Reynolds Geriatrics Education Center.
“The goal is not to line up support for any particular legislation,” Cheatham County Democratic chair Michael Lottman said, “but to generate creative thinking on the part of those now struggling with the issue. It is a very important part of the impact, clarifying the issues and enhancing public awareness.”
Issues that repeatedly came up throughout the forum were concerns about how to regulate the use of medical marijuana, as well as concerns over potential abuse and legislation that is under consideration.
Binkley was first to speak and shared the story of losing his brother to brain cancer.
“If you had asked me a year and a half ago if I’d be in front of a group of people trying to push medical marijuana, I would have said you are crazy,” Binkley said. “It was December 12 in 2007 at 1 a.m. that my Dad came running up the stairs to tell me that my brother had a seizure that day. He had brain cancer.
“I did research and learned that medical marijuana shows extraordinary effects against brain cancer. You can’t get it in Tennessee, yet 81 percent of the population supports medical marijuana and 81 percent of Tennesseans considers themselves Christian.”
Binkley expressed frustration over the state legislature refusing to pass use of medical marijuana, labeling it as dangerous.
“Marijuana has been used for at least 5,000 years and possibly even longer, with zero deaths from overdose,” he said. “Getting radiation while taking marijuana has shown to reduce the size of tumors by as much as 90 percent.”
Binkley’s brother passed away on March 22, 2018.
“In his memory, I want to get this done,” he said.
Hairston’s organization advocates for safe access to medical marijuana. He said that because of his battle with psoriatic arthritis he would not be able to stand even for an extended period of time without the use of medical marijuana.
Johnson, who represents the Knoxville area, spoke about a proposed law that would allow non-Tennessee residents visiting the state to use medical marijuana because it’s allowed in their home state.
“Tennessee is a big tourism state,” Johnson said. “If you come to Tennessee and have your medical card and prescription, you should not be in danger of being arrested for having your medicine.”
Powers called himself a patient advocate
“There is a difference between medical and recreational marijuana, with benefits in terms of potential medical uses,” he said, also saying that state law should be in control of dispensing medical marijuana.
Breedlove, who has served the county since 2014, was the final speaker.
“There is evidence of good things that come from medical marijuana if properly prescribed,” he said.
His main concern is that there’s a large group of people pushing for the use of marijuana which may serve as a stepping stone to push for decriminalization and then lead to full recreational use.
He also expressed concerns for how to prepare for legalization when there is no training for law enforcement.
“The THC level was two to five percent back in the 1960s, while today the THC level is twenty-five percent,” he said. “That’s like a light beer versus two shots of vodka.”
THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis.