Medicinal Marijuana Activist Fights For Legalization in Tennessee
There is growing support to legalize medical marijuana use in Tennessee. Taking up the cause is a man who went from being a public health official to a prisoner for helping patients use pot.
With two master’s degrees, Bernie Ellis has spent decades working for federal and state agencies in public health.
But for the last year and a half, Ellis has spent his days on a landscaping detail and his nights in a halfway house, sentenced by a federal judge for growing medical marijuana on this Maury County farm.
When federal agents raided his farm in 2002, Ellis was in the middle of giving small amounts of marijuana to four sick patients.
"Three of the four (patients) were in late stages of cancer. The fourth (patient) was an organ transplant recipient (who was) having lots of problems with nausea from medication,” said Ellis.
Ellis, who specialized in infectious diseases and substance abuse, said there's plenty of evidence marijuana can help very sick patients.
"We've known for years it helps nausea. It serves as a pain medication,” said Ellis.
Twelve states have legalized medical marijuana use and state Sen. Beverly Marrero, whose son-in-law is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, wants Tennessee to be next.
"I think anything we can do to alleviate pain and suffering from anybody who has a life-threatening disease we have to do it,” said Marrero.
While Marrero tries to change state law, the federal government is trying to seize Ellis's 190-acre farm.
Ellis is scheduled to be released from the halfway house May 10, and he still faces more than two years of probation.
In addition to the possibility of losing his farm, he is $73,000 in debt from legal fees.
A benefit concert starring Jonell Moser is scheduled on April 25 to raise money for Ellis' legal fees.
Visit Save Bernie's Farm Web site to learn more about his cause.
Public Discussion On Legalizing Marijuana
Whether or not to legalize marijuana will be a topic of discussion next week at Austin Peay State University.
The public is invited to the debate scheduled for Wednesday, March 28 at 7 p.m. in the Morgan University Center Ballroom.
- Article from NBC WSMV-TV.