A bill that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in Alabama was approved by a legislative committee on Wednesday, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate later this session. The bill was approved by a vote of 8-1 by the Senate Judiciary Committee, prompting applause from members of the audience.
A similar measure was passed by the Senate last year but failed to gain the approval of the state’s House of Representatives. In December, a state commission formed to explore medical cannabis voted to recommend legalization.
If the bill is passed, it would allow patients with one or more qualifying serious medical conditions and a recommendation from a physician to use medicinal cannabis products. Medical marijuana that can be smoked or vaped is excluded from the bill, which would only legalize cannabis in formulations including pills, gummies, oils, and topical preparations including patches, gels, and creams.
Dr. Alan Shackleford of Colorado told lawmakers about the success patients with medical conditions such as seizures and cancer have had using medical marijuana treatments.
“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” he said.
Cristi Cain shared the story of her son Hardy, who has seen relief from debilitating seizures with the use of CBD oil. She said that medicines with a higher dose would be more helpful, but they aren’t legal in Alabama.
“An area code shouldn’t affect one health’s care,” Cain said. “If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees.”
Bill Covers 15 Qualifying Conditions
Under the bill, which was introduced by Republican Sen. Tim Melson, patients with one or more of 15 qualifying medical conditions including anxiety, cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder would be permitted to use medical marijuana products. Patients would be permitted to purchase up to a 70-day supply of medicine at a time.
The measure also includes provisions for the manufacture and distribution of cannabis products, including authorization for up to 32 medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the state. A 9 percent tax on cannabis sales at retail dispensaries would be imposed. Revenue from the tax would be used to create the Consortium for Medical Cannabis Research, which would award grants to fund scientific studies of the plant.
The measure requires the implementation of a seed-to-sale tracking system for marijuana products, mandates packaging and labeling requirements, and puts restrictions on cannabis advertising. Employees working at licensed cannabis facilities would be required to pass criminal background checks.
As can be expected, the legalization of medical marijuana in Alabama is opposed by law enforcement, including Capt. Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“Just because we put the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Hammac said.