Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) and Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), both anesthesiologists, plan to introduce the Tennessee Responsible Use of Medicinal Plants Act (TRUMP Act) for the use of medical cannabis in 2019. Drawing on the agriculture, life science, and research industries of Tennessee, they are working on a bill which aims to include expanded medical research and treatment options utilizing cannabis and cannabis extracts under medical supervision.
“We believe Tennessee patients and physicians have the right to participate in research utilizing cannabis and that our agricultural, higher education, and life science industries are well equipped to be world leaders in this research,” stated Rep. Terry. “If you believe in freedom, advancing medicine, and providing opportunities for our industries, then you should support Tennesseans having the right to research and the right to try agricultural medicines.”
In 2015, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Right to Try Act which allowed terminally ill patients to try medicines that have passed Phase One of FDA trials. President Trump recently signed a federal Right to Try Act that mimicked the Tennessee law and he recently stated that he would support ending the federal ban on cannabis while supporting state laws. Much of the bill will be focused on the right to research agricultural medicines.
As explained by Sen. Dickerson, “Marinol and Syndros are both FDA approved drugs that are synthetic THC from a lab and are legal in all states. And just this week, the FDA approved Epidiolex which is an epilepsy drug derived from cannabis. With a proven safety profile of these drugs and of cannabis, we should be able to develop and research medical cannabis products for patients in Tennessee and our patients should have the right to participate in research and treatment under medical supervision.”
The legislators are working with a legal team, other legislators, and industry leaders to ensure the legislation will provide the most benefit for patients while being able to garner support to pass the General Assembly. The legislators agree that the TRUMP Act would not only benefit patients, but, also, the agriculture and medical industries while providing revenue to the state.
“Our state seal contains the two words agriculture and commerce. We have the opportunity to help patients, our rural communities, and create jobs,” said Terry.
“Much of the pushback that we often hear is that we need more medical research, but there is a failure at the federal level to enable extensive research,” stated Dickerson. “Under medical direction, patients will have the medical freedom that they are demanding while building on the growing body of cannabis research.”
“We envision our universities, as well as our life science and agricultural industries participating in the research and benefiting from the data while helping develop long term medical modalities for patients,” explained Terry. “For instance, MTSU, with the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medical Research, would benefit by having expanded capabilities for research opportunities.”
Given their background as anesthesiologists, the two physician legislators have an expert understanding of pain and the opioid problem plaguing Tennessee. Both believe that cannabis derived medicines could help combat the opioid crisis and provide patients with a safe alternative to opioids.
“Oftentimes, pain and other symptoms are driven by inflammation or neuropathic dysfunction. There is a growing body of evidence that cannabinoids can be of benefit to those patients,” explained Terry. “The TRUMP Act will allow these patients an alternative to opioids while helping our medical industry refine and develop treatments.”
To further emphasize their point, Senator Dickerson stated, “Many patients in pain are going to the streets and buying illicit opioids or marijuana that may contain deadly combinations of chemicals. They are playing Russian Roulette with their lives. Having quality assured cannabis derived medicines will help combat the illicit drug problem.”
With nationwide support for changing federal and state cannabis laws, both agreed that there would likely be several bills filed next session surrounding cannabis and much of the specifics may depend on what occurs at the federal level.
“President Trump has expressed support for ending the federal ban on cannabis and letting states decide their own cannabis laws. With Tennesseans and Trump overwhelming supporting the ‘Right to Try’, surely elected officials would support the TRUMP Act,” concluded Terry.
Senator Steve Dickerson, MD represents Davidson County and is serving his second four year term. Representative Bryan Terry, MD represents District 48 in Rutherford County and is running for re-election to his third term. Assuming Terry’s re-election, they plan to file the bill at the start of the 111th session.