By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The Alabama House Health Committee will hear testimony concerning medical marijuana on Wednesday at 1:00 pm at the Alabama State House.
HB2, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama, is sponsored by State Representative Patricia Todd (D-Jefferson County) will not specially be on the agenda Thursday, but Todd who works for an HIV organization said,
“I have seen a lot of people die a miserable death and some benefited from the use of marijuana. I also believe that it can be very beneficial for people who suffer from cancer and migraines.”
The meeting is being held in the wake of the historic legalization of recreation marijuana use in Colorado and Washington State.
Just last week, voters in Colorado, Washington State and Oregon voted on initiatives to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana in their respective states. Only residents of Oregon rejected the move. On the same day, the people of Massachusetts joined 17 states and the District of Columbia in electing to allow medical use of the drug. While these victories clash with federal drug laws, proponents of medical marijuana in Alabama have cause to be hopeful that they are one step closer to their goal.
Ron Crumpton, co-president of AMMJC (Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition) said,
“When you take into consideration the fact that in two states the citizens have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, I just find it appalling that Alabama has yet to make allowances for people who are suffering from chronic medical conditions to use this valuable medication in their treatment.”
Crumpton says that,
“Medical marijuana has been proven to treat a variety of medical ailments without the harsh side effects that many patients experience with pharmaceuticals. When you take into consideration, that often times patients are able to treat more than one condition with medical marijuana, it only makes sense; an example would be that someone in chronic pain will usually be taking pain medication and an antidepressant, marijuana fills both of those needs.”
Crumpton, was a constant figure at the Alabama Statehouse last session, working quietly to advocate on behalf of those who want to legalize medical marijuana in the state. However, during the 2012 legislative session the medical marijuana bill sponsored by Todd never made it to the floor of the House.
The House Health Committee is chaired by State Representative Jim McClendon (R-Springville) who did hold a health committee meeting on medical marijuana during the 2012 session. McClendon has said the hearing will not be specifically about House Bill 2 but proponents are encouraged to even have a chance to educate legislators about the benefits of the herb.
“Last year, more than one member of the House told us that our organization had the most effective lobbying effort of all the nonprofit organizations,” said Chris Butts, co-president of the AMMJC. “We must maintain that pressure. We must show them that last year was not just a flash in the pan, and that we are not going away.”
While the lobbying effort by the AMMJC has shown signs of success there has been some tension between the group and lawmakers.
Crumpton, has said that House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) never allowed the medical marijuana bill come to the floor for open debate.
So, frustrated with Hubbard’s inaction, Crumpton penned a opinion column in the Alabama Political Reporter rebuking the Speaker,
“Quite simply, in the last session, the actions of Speaker Hubbard toward the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights Act were tyrannical. The United States is a Republic set up under a system of checks and balances; however, legislative bodies are allowed to write their own rules, which in effect give members of the leadership tyrannical powers. Regardless of the fact that most of the members of the health committee want to hear debate on this issue, Speaker Hubbard, alone, has decided that this issue is too dangerous for debate.”
The AMMJC gave Hubbard an open invitation to meet with the groups members but according to Crumpton, Hubbard always had scheduling conflicts even though Crumpton said they informed the Speaker that they would meet with him anywhere and anytime.
To what Crumpton considered a dodge by Speaker Hubbard, Crumpton wrote,
“It is time for serious debate about medical marijuana in Alabama; Speaker Hubbard should be part of that debate, however, he has chosen to run, hide, or disappear into a puff of smoke every time the issue is brought up. I am sorry but if you are not man enough to look patients in the eyes and tell them why you are denying them something that is safe, natural and will help them, then you are not man enough to be Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.”
Crumpton says that, “Patients should not have to fight their government to treat their illness. Patients should not face criminal prosecution for trying to treat their ailment and patients should not be forced to go to criminals to get their medication.”
Alabama is a state where politics is dominated by those who either believe that marijuana should be an illegal substance or who at least pay lip service to the idea, so, the AMMJC and proponents may be in for a long battle to see such legislation come before the governing bodies.