Democratic state Senate candidate Gayle Jordan says she’s not worried about being labeled a “liberal” for her support of legalizing medical marijuana in Tennessee.

“I am much less concerned by how I’m perceived,” she says.

Rather, her driving force in backing medical use of marijuana and any other issue in her campaign for the 14th District Senate seat is to work in the best interests of constituents and people across Tennessee.

The east Murfreesboro resident isn’t “overly concerned,” either, about medical marijuana becoming a gateway to legalization of recreational pot in Tennessee.

“The science has shown us even the recreational use of marijuana is no more and, in fact, less dangerous than the consumption of alcohol. So as studies continue to show over and over again that resistance is based on outdated, illogical and judgmental frames of mind,” Jordan says.

While she isn’t making medical marijuana the hallmark of her candidacy as the March 13 special election approaches – health care, education and infrastructure get most of her attention – Jordan isn’t shy about speaking on a four-point punch list for backing medicinal use of cannabis.

Jordan, who will face the winner of a Republican primary between Murfreesboro pharmaceutical company owner Shane Reeves and former state Rep. Joe Carr to fill a vacancy left by Jim Tracy, gives these reasons for endorsing medical marijuana:

  • Medical benefits for numerous disorders, diseases and ailments in which people have responded favorably to cannabis treatment ranging from cancer to pain treatment.
  • The business benefits for new industry, including growers, manufacturers and labs, in addition to the potential tax benefit to the state of Tennessee.
  • A positive impact on people suffering from opioid addiction by weaning them off highly-addictive drugs and during initial diagnosis for pain relief.
  • Criminal justice reform. “We know there is a racial component to how we handle arrests for cannabis possession … so there is an incredibly important criminal justice feature to legalizing cannabis,” she says.

Jordan says she would leave the form of cannabis use to scientists, whether patients would smoke it or take liquid or caplet forms. The candidate has children who live in cannabis-friendly states and says she has found it “astounding” to see how much research goes into medical marijuana and how different components of the cannabis plant are used for different levels of strength and treating different types of physical problems and illnesses.

Jordan reiterates alcohol is more addictive and leads to far more dangerous impairment than marijuana and points out the legislation leading to its legalization should be based on scientific thinking.

“Whatever it is we would let the science guide us on what the application of that is,” she says.

Legislation introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of East Tennessee and Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson, a Nashville anesthesiologist, would limit medical marijuana’s use to liquid or pill form, prohibiting smoking. It would set up a statewide commission to oversee the licensing of grow operations, prescriptions and dispensaries.

In addition, it would require local governments to hold referendums before it would be allowed.

Several legislators, however, oppose the idea because the federal government prohibits medical and recreational marijuana, instead categorizing it as a narcotic, similar to other hallucinogenic drugs such as heroin.

Jordan doesn’t expect President Donald Trump’s administration to change federal law with respect to marijuana use or reschedule it so possession isn’t a serious criminal violation.

In fact, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to toughen guidelines on federal regulation of state marijuana laws such as those recently adopted in California for recreational use. One of those would freeze bank and credit union activity on marijuana cash, making it harder for financial institutions to handle all of the money rolling in from pot sales.

“So short of that, we all understand what the states’ rights argument is, and so however we’re able to work around that, there are 30 states, more than half of our states, have found a workaround with that,” Jordan says. “So I think Tennessee, if the federal government would do their part and reschedule the drug that would be one way to resolve it. Short of that, we would follow the lead of our brother and sister states and how they’ve managed it.”

Carr says he is trying to gather more information about medical marijuana and hasn’t decided whether he favors or opposes it.

Reeves, a pharmacist by trade, points out his pharmacy has 10,000 medications, most of them stemming from some type of plant. He contends medical marijuana or marijuana, the plant, isn’t a problem but that recreational use over a number of decades has caused problems.

“There absolutely are benefits to cannabis, medical marijuana, for people who’ve got cancer, glaucoma, nerve pain and headaches. There are also other ways you can take it other than smoking it. There’s oils, capsules, and I think over the next years we should look at some other options,” Reeves said. “But right now my answer to medical marijuana is not now.”

Reeves said Tennessee has a serious problem with people taking opiates irresponsibly and the last thing it needs is to introduce another addictive medication. He wants to put new systems in place to control opioid use before looking at new medications.

Sam Stockard can be reached at

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