State Lawmakers’ Advice on Promoting Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp in Tennessee.
The founder of Tennesseans for Medical Cannabis NOW, came to the NORMLTN monthly meeting inviting us to join a group meeting several TN legislators on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 as part of Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Advocacy Day.
Several NORMLTN members jumped at the opportunity and we learned as much as we shared during our 15-30 minute appointment with each legislator. What I learned, is it’s not that hard to make a face-to-face appointment with your representative, share info about medical marijuana (MMJ) and ask for advice on how to move the issue forward.
Some legislators were knowledgeable and also curious about laws and statistics from medical marijuana friendly states. Others were willing to hear our stories about extreme prison time for medical use and relief for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and other medical disorders.
Most were willing to offer ideas for our cause but cautious about having their names or photos in this blog. One representative said every two years he faces re-election and getting behind an unpopular issue could end his legislative career. “You’ve got to change the views of constituents back home, and get the 130 Baptist churches in our district on your side,” he said. Others said to overcome marijuana’s stigma with a grass roots effort.
“You got to have guts to step out and speak up.” – TN Rep. Sherry Jones.
Our hero Legislator for the day was Rep. Sherry Jones, who is in support of MMJ. “Have people call their members, tell them you live in their district, give your address and tell them about your physical problems and how MMJ helps,” she said. “You got to have guts to step out and speak up.” She also advised meeting with your representative, “Members are looking for letters, and families can do it, on behalf of a brother or Uncle Bob, who is ill and benefitting from MMJ.” said Jones. “Send a second letter if you have some new information to share, maybe a new study or information from another state, or even a doctor in their district.” Jones noted many doctors are against smoking marijuana but other techniques are available.
“Everybody’s got an opinion, but I need the facts.” – Anonymous TN Legislator
Fox 17 News showed up to interview Marilyn Green, our official TV spokesperson for the day. When one rep learned that industrial hemp is used in BMW car door panels, he said, “If you can get the VW plant in TN behind it, you’ll get some traction.” Other reps asked for statistics and legal examples of how drunk driving stops are made in states with legal marijuana. “I need the facts.” she said. “Everybody’s got an opinion, but I need the facts.”
“It’s all about relationships and working with people.” – Anonymous TN Legislator
“It’s a hard sell,” said another, “and you need to work from the ground up.” A senator said there is one death a week in his district because of Oxycontin, and drugs in general are a problem. He suggested getting a MMJ bill in the health committee as our next step.
“I remember the D.A.R.E. program as a kid in school,” said one legislator, “But they didn’t tell us the difference between various drugs. I think drug education is important.” One representative said warning labels, like, “Do not operate heavy machinery while using,” would be important.
A senator said a Tennessee Medical Association Endorsement would help a lot in this campaign, while another summed it up, “It’s all about relationships and working with people.”
Our productive day at the Statehouse was winding down and before our group disbanded we shared thoughts on the day. “Be very friendly with the secretaries, they really know what’s going on,” and “Thursdays are the best day to come down here,” and “Maybe we should bring every office we visit a home-baked pie.”