Tennessee Tech is about to become the second school in the U.S. to grow medical marijuana legally.
The university has been chosen to supply cannabis for a four-year study on the treatment of epilepsy, under a bill that awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature.
The legislation, SB 2531, passed its final hurdle earlier this month and is expected to be signed into law. The bill would make Tennessee Tech the second university to grow medical marijuana.
“It’s very insightful for the legislature to take this stance,” says Philip Oldham, Tennessee Tech University president. “It’s in a very moderated, controlled kind of way.”
The University of Mississippi is the one school in the U.S. that currently grows marijuana. Overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the university has been the only federally sanctioned source of cannabis since 1968.
But unlike the marijuana farm at Ole Miss, Tennessee Tech will only be growing plants with low levels of THC, meaning they won’t be getting anyone high.
Instead, the focus is on plants rich in a non-psychoactive ingredient known as cannabidiol (CBD), which has been widely reported to be effective against seizures.
SB 2531 amends Tennessee law by redefining marijuana to exclude “cannabis oil containing the substance cannibidiol with less than nine-tenths tetrahydrocannibinol” when used as part of a clinical research study.
Similar ‘CBD-only’ marijuana bills have received strong backing from state legislatures in Alabama, Utah, Kentucky, Mississippi and Wisconsin. Marijuana activists, however, have criticized the proposals as “unworkable.”