Medical marijuana bill heads to first vote in Legislature

MGN Online

A medical marijuana bill is headed to its first vote in the Alabama Legislature as advocates hope to gain legislative traction after years of setbacks in Montgomery.

Posted: Feb 15, 2020 9:47 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill is headed to its first vote in the Alabama Legislature as advocates hope to gain legislative traction after years of setbacks in Montgomery.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the legislation Wednesday and could vote the same day. The bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for certain conditions, including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain, and to purchase cannabis products at a dispensary licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

Medical marijuana advocates for years made little headway in Montgomery. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives. A bill cleared the Alabama Senate last year but the measure faces continued skepticism in the House of Representatives and opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

“The committee’s my hurdle right now. I can’t look at the end of the track until I cross the next one," Melson said when asked about the bill's outlook.

Melson, an anesthesiologist, said several years ago he would have opposed legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but now believes that it can offer help to patients with certain debilitating conditions. He said support for the bill often depends on if a person knows someone who has, or could, benefit from medical marijuana.

Melson estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 people in Alabama would have a qualifying condition that would allow them to be prescribed medical marijuana from a physician. Qualifying patients would be given a medical cannabis card and buy the products at a licensed dispensary. The bill allows up to 34 dispensaries in the state, he said.

“We don't want them on every corner," Melson said.

The bill would allow marijuana only in the form of pills, gelatinous cubes, skin patches and gels and creams. It would not allow products consumed by smoking or vaping. It would also not allow edibles where the marijuana is baked into cookies, candies or other food items.

The bill would allow marijuana to be prescribed for any of 15 conditions: Anxiety, autism, cancer, Crohns’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, AIDS-related weight loss, persistent nausea, post traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, spastic movements associated with motor neuron disease, terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of less than six months, Tourette’s Syndrome and chronic pain.

The marijuana would be grown in-state by farmers with a minimum of eight years of farming experience, under the bill.

The Alabama Senate approved similar legislation last year, but medical marijuana has faced more opposition in the House of Representatives.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he believes the legislation continues to have “strong support here.”

“It will be interesting to see when it gets to the House where that is," Marsh said.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said the House is waiting to see what comes out of the Senate. He said House members have had concerns about how marijuana would be prescribed and the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The bill faces opposition from the state attorney general. Marshall said his office opposes legalized marijuana as a matter of principle.

In a Jan. 6 letter to lawmakers, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called marijuana an addictive substance and drew parallels with the ongoing opioid addiction crisis. He also noted federal law continues to ban marijuana.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 84°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 85°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 81°
High pressure still tries to hang on to our area on Thursday, however a weak warm front will change the dominance of high pressure. This weak cold front will give us a chance for some isolated showers and thunderstorms at times.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather