by Steven Hale
In an embarrassing display for committee members of both parties, The Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act was denied its anticipated hearing in a Senate health committee this morning. After Democrats failed to show up for the committee, present Republicans refused to even call a motion allowing for discussion on the bill, which is already dead in the House.
The hearing would have made history, according to medical cannabis activist and former public health epidemiologist Bernie Ellis, as the first of its kind in the Senate in some 20 years. The "Marijuana Martyr," Ellis was busted several years ago by authorities for growing marijuana and giving it free-of-charge to cancer patients.
"I've been up at this legislature for eight years," Ellis told Pith as activists and patients who had come to testify milled around. "The quietest I've ever seen it was when he asked for a motion or a second. I mean, a pin could have dropped in there."
Despite legislators' decades-long avoidance of the issue, Ellis says momentum is growing with every public figure, like Constance Gee, who comes out in favor of the idea. Among those who had come to testify Tuesday was a Methodist minister from Clarksville, whose congregation is made up largely of military servicemen, many of whom have used medical marijuana to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
When the bill returns in January — and Ellis, along with the bill's sponsors, says it will — he says proponents will likely have two Vanderbilt medical professors in their number to testify.
"There's a point at which they have to listen. And we're reaching that point," Ellis says.
Activists were planning to meet Tuesday with the legislators who refused to hear them in committee and voice their support — assuming Democrats are in their office and Republicans don't just lock their doors.