Story at a glance

  • The Alabama state senate is poised to vote on a bill legalizing medical marijuana.
  • The bill is hotly contested, with law enforcement bodies opposing its ratification.
  • The bill would establish new cannabis bureaucracies in Alabama and offer protection to patients who use medical cannabis.

The Alabama state legislature just advanced a bill allowing medical marijuana to be prescribed for up to 15 conditions, the Associated Press (AP) reports from Montgomery

An audience reportedly applauded before Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee when it voted 8-1 for the bill, allowing it to head for the Senate floor for a vote.

SB165, informally named the Compassion Act and sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson, would allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions such as cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It would also let patients with prescriptions buy cannabis products at licensed dispensaries. 

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The medical marijuana would be available as oral pills, gummies, oils, creams and nebulizers, according to the bill’s text

Notably, the bill clearly states that vaping cannabis products is not permitted. 

The bill would also establish the first Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission and Fund to cover costs and regulate patient systems, as well as the Medical Cannabis Research Consortium from grant fund using tax proceedings for increased research on cannabis’ medical effects. 

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries would regulate the cultivation of medical cannabis from now on as part of the bill’s bylines. 

It would also provide “certain criminal and civil immunities when an individual” is prescribed and using their marijuana for legal purposes outlined in the bill. An example of these protections includes the requirement for any employer “to permit, accommodate, or allow the use of medical cannabis, or to modify any job or working conditions of any employee who engages in the use of medical cannabis.”  Employers who do not meet this standard will be liable for legal action. 

Dr. Alan Shackelford, a physician from Colorado, stated before the senate committee that “This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” before listing the various medical maladies that have been mitigated by marijuana. 

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Opposing the bill’s progression were law enforcement groups. Shelby County Capt. Clay Hammac stated that “Just because we put the word ‘medical’ in front of marijuana does not make it medicine.” 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall also sent the senate a letter voicing his objections to the bill.

Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. 

Published on Feb 19, 2020