Tennessee Speaker of the House and GOP gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) made news Friday afternoon when, during a fairly routine interview with Memphis Local 24 about her aspirations to be the next governor, she posited if marijuana is "a gift from God."
Harwell's position about on marijuana has taken a major turn after her sister, in an attempt to control pain from breaking her back, took an oral form of the drug was reportedly helped by it.
As The Tennessee Star reported in August:
According to an Associated Press report picked up by Connecticut-based The New Haven Register, Harwell relayed her personal story of how her sister broke her back and was prescribed opioids for the pain. The injury to her sister is the reason Harwell cited in a letter to the Rutherford County Republican Party explaining why she was unable to attend the Reagan Day dinner in May.
Harwell recalled to the group that her sister, who had been prescribed opioids for her pain, "had no doubt" in her mind that if she were to "continue this opioid regimen, I will become addicted to opioids."
With Harwell's sister living in Colorado where marijuana has been legalized, she used some for four or five days until she felt better after the initial doses of opioids, which she wanted to stop taking.
In her interview, Harwell explained her sister's use of medical marijuana.
"She did not smoke marijuana. She took a little crystal that she put on her tongue in the evening. She did it two or three times and has not used it since," she said, adding, "So, you have to wonder. Maybe this is a gift from God."
Meanwhile, Democrats are organizing their efforts to push for its legalization, with studies currently underway in the state House.
Tennessee Democratic Party committeeman Gary Blackburn pointed to "a growing body of a research about the benefits of medical uses of marijuana, including for the treatment of chronic pain," The Star reported in November.
"At this moment, when legal opioids have created an epidemic that is devastating our communities, giving doctors any other options seems like a good idea," committeeman Blackburn said.
Although Harwell seems to be quite open to the legalization a non-smoking form of medical marijuana, she "is making no predictions" about the passage of such a measure, or what she would do if the legislation were to land on her desk as Governor.
A recent Tennessee Star Poll showed that Harwell has made virtually no progress in the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for governor since June.
In the June Tennessee Star Poll, 4 percent of likely Republican primary voters supported her bid for governor.
Six months later, in the December Tennessee Star Poll, 6 percent of likely Republican primary voters supported her bid for governor, placing her in a distant third place.
Harwell's focus on medical marijuana as one of her key issues is not in alignment with the top six issues among likely Republican primary voters in the December Tennessee Star Poll, which were identified as follows:
- Overwhelmingly oppose providing taxpayer subsidized in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students by a whopping 88 percent to 6 percent margin, more than 14-to-1 against.
- Overwhelmingly oppose Republican candidates who accept money from the Tennessee Education Association and the National Education Association, 76 percent to 6 percent, more than 12-to-1 against.
- Oppose Gov. Haslam's gas tax increase by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin. 36 percent are more likely to support a candidate who promises to repeal the gas tax, while 26 percent are less likely to support such a candidate.
- Support passage of a bill that would require students at public schools and colleges in Tennessee to use restrooms and locker rooms matching the gender listed on their birth certificates or the gender which is consistent with their physical characteristics by a 75 percent to 13 percent margin, almost 6-to-1 in favor.
- Think our education system spends too much time on testing: 58 percent think our education system spends too much time and focus on these tests, while only 12 percent think our system spends too little time on tests.
- Oppose the removal of Civil War monuments honoring Confederate soldiers and Generals: 64 percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments, while 26 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments.
Legalization of medical marijuana is not one of those top six issues.