Connect with us


Medical marijuana users tell their stories to Medical Cannabis Study Commission

Brandon Moseley



Thursday, the Medical Cannabis Study Commission held its third meeting. The Commission has been tasked with presenting a policy recommendation to the legislature on exactly what the best medical marijuana bill should look like. The Commission held a public hearing in which a number of medical marijuana users claimed that the drug has benefitted them.

Each speaker was limited to just two minutes time to address the commission.

Helen “Marty” Schelper said that her sister died from the chemotherapy used to treat her breast cancer. Shelper said that since then she has met people who were diagnosed with cancer that no longer have cancer using marijuana extracts. Schelper said that her cannabis advocacy began seven years ago when her sister died. Schelper credited marijuana with successfully treating her Lyme disease.

Amanda Taylor, age 45, said that her Father was murdered when she was a child. She was diagnosed with diabetes at at age 17. At age 25 she was diagnosed with cancer. Later she developed stomach issues that led to chronic vomiting and an insulin pump was installed for her diabetes. At a low point she weighed just 99 pounds and was having to use a handicapped cart to shop for groceries. Someone from Colorado introduced her to marijuana to deal with her potentially fatal, for a diabetic, stomach issues. Because cannabis is illegal in Alabama, even for someone with a medical need she moved to Arizona and is now employed by the medical cannabis industry there.

“I left Alabama because Alabama shut their doors to me,” Taylor said.

While still in Alabama she was able to purchase marijuana on the black market.

“I was using cannabis; but I did not know what I was getting,” Taylor said.

Lee Vessel is an Air Force veteran, who has studied the marijuana literature heavily.

Public Service Announcement

“There is an epidemic of suicide in my community,” Vessel said. “There are 22 veteran suicides a day.
Vessel said that he is involved in a charity in California that get veterans out of their homes and into activities; but unlike other charities medicinal cannabis was used in those activities.

“In California, I met hundreds if not thousands who said that medical cannabis helped to ease the symptoms of their chronic conditions,” Vessel said. “Unlike opioids it is not an addictive pain killer with the ability to kill via overdose.”

Tina Crim said, “I am 43 years old and I live in Decatur, Alabama. I have multiple health issues. I broke my neck in a car wreck six years ago.”

“They told my family I was going to die,” Crim said. that she could not even keep water down. Her doctor recommended synthetic THC (the active chemical in marijuana). She was reluctant to use it because of the stigma; but it worked and she was able to keep food down.

“Had he not given me that medicine I would not have walked out of that hospital,” Crim said. I and my doctor have fought with the insurance company for years to keep on that medicine. Eventually the insurance stopped paying for the synthetic THC that she was taking and her symptom resumed.

“My husband’s work sent him to California” (where marijuana is legal), Crim said. “I got a medical marijuana card in California. I was eating toast and butter after 14 days. You can’t tell me that medical marijuana does not work.”

“I have a rare blood disease that has taken me to the hospital several times,” Joseph Fannin said. “I began leaving the state to go to Florida (which also legalized medical marijuana) to get treatment. Since I have been back in Alabama I have been getting sick again.”

“This plant is so important not just medically, but for the ecosystem as a whole,” Chera Howard said. “It is good for soul regeneration and good for the environment.”

“I was a UPS driver for 18 years,” David Grantham said. “I stepped off a curb and shattered my ankle. I had five reconstructions on my ankle.”

Grantham developed a complication that inflamed his nerves, “It burns my body inside out.”

Doctors attempted to relieve the pain with prescription pain medication. “I did not know who my parents were,” “Now I go to Colorado and I have doctors in Florida. I am considering moving to Colorado. I smoke it and I am me again. I should not have to leave Alabama.”

“I am tired, my body is tired, my story is I am literally just tired,” Grantham said. “The suicide rate for what I have is about 70 percent,”

“I was supposed to be in a wheelchair years ago,” Grantham said. “I have a spinal chord stimulator in my back. It took me a year to recover from the surgery to put it in and now it needs to be taken out and replaced.”

Timothy Morris said that he is mechanic who has had five bypass surgeries and back surgery. He also has muscle cramps and neuropathy in both legs that is extremely painful.

“In 2010 I tried to go back to work,” Morris said. “It is 100 degree in those shops. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Morris says that he likes motorcycles; but he has a motorcycle that he can’t ride. “I can’t do it anymore. I have children and grandchildren. I want to do things with them and I can’t do it anymore.”

“I have done marijuana,” Morris said. “I smoked it as a kid, but not medically.”

“I don’t care to take a pill,” Morris said and does not want to take prescription opioids.

“When people scream out we should give help,” Morris said. “I get no help and I am mad. I have lived in Alabama almost my whole life; but maybe I should leave the state.” “The pain that I am in now is ridiculous. It is uncalled for.”

“In June this year I was diagnosed with cancer,” John Day said. “I started chemotherapy and began using medical marijuana to deal with the nausea.”

“I am 56 years old and soon to be grandmother of five,” Michelle Rhodes said. “Frankly I think it is sad that we have to come and beg to use a plant that has been in the food chain for thousands of years.”

“I have been indulging since I was 14 and frankly, I think it is why I have stayed away from the pharmaceuticals. I don’t trust them,” Rhodes said. Rhodes said that her son died from a brain tumor. She believes that conventional medicine killed her son and that marijuana would have been a better treatment.

No one spoke at the public hearing in opposition to legalizing medical marijuana.

State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) is an anesthesiologist and the chair of the commission. He introduced medical marijuana legislation last year and intends to introduce it again this year.
“I want your comment and your input,” Melson said of state agencies and law enforcement. “We want to protect employers and employees” who want to have a safe workplace in this bill and wants to hear from law enforcement; but “The time is now. Don’t come to me when we are in session in February.”

Melson said that the bill will be written, “Based on the science not the emotion.”

“The next meeting of the commission will be November 7,” Melson said. “We will have an expert that just got back from Israel who has seen all the latest research. Like me five to six years ago he would not have even considered this.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.



Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July





Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced today that he has asked Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Range, to begin holding General Fund Committee meetings in preparation for the next session.

In an effort to be better prepared because of uncertainty in state revenue as a result of COVID-19 pandemic Senator Albritton has agreed with Senator Marsh and has invited Legislative Services, the Department of Finance, Pardons and Paroles, Corrections and the Personnel Department to provide updates to the committee.

“Typically, we begin this process closer to sessions however because of uncertainty about state income and possibility of special sessions, we felt like it was important to get started much earlier than usual in this process,” Senator Albritton said. “The Legislature has done an excellent job managing our budgets over the past few years. So much so that Alabama was able to weather the storm of the COVID-19 shutdown this year with little impact to our vital state services. We understand that we will not have final revenue projections until after July 15th, but we must continue to do our due diligence and ensure that we use taxpayer money sensibly.”

“We want to make sure that all public money is being used wisely, now and in the future,” Senator Marsh said. “We have many pressing issues facing the state such as a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal and a stunning lack of rural broadband investment which need to be addressed whenever the Legislature is back in session and it is our duty to make sure we are prepared and kept up to speed on these matters. Furthermore, the taxpayers deserve a clear and transparent view of how their money is being used.”

The hearings are scheduled to begin July 9 in the Alabama State House.


Continue Reading


Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19





A part-time employee in Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s office, who the office said works only a handful of hours each week, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a press statement.

The employee, whose work area is separated from the rest of the staff, last worked in the office on the morning of Thursday, June 18.

All members of the office staff have been tested or are in the process of being tested for COVID-19 in response, and, thus far, no additional positive results have been reported.

In addition, the State House suite has been thoroughly cleaned and will remain closed until all employees’ test results have been returned.

Employees are working remotely from home, and phones are being answered in order to continue providing services to the citizens who need them.


Continue Reading


Three workers at ADOC headquarters among latest to test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter



Sixteen more Alabama Department of Corrections employees, including three at the department’s headquarters in Montgomery, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The department’s latest update, released Monday evening, puts the total of confirmed cases among employees at 99, with 73 cases still active. 

Five more inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 as well, including inmates at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility, the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and the St. Clair Correctional Facility.

18 of 27 confirmed cases among inmates remained active as of Monday, according to ADOC. 

Of the department’s 28 facilities, there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff or inmates in 21. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 214 had been tested as of Friday. 

Areas inside numerous state prisons are under quarantine, with ADOC staff either limiting inmate movements to those areas or checking for symptoms regularly and conducting twice daily temperature checks, according to the department.

Continue Reading


Still work to be done on an Alabama gambling deal

Josh Moon



A grand deal on gambling is possible in Alabama, but there’s still a long way to go. 

That was essentially the message that representatives from the Poarch Creek Indians and owners of non-Indian casinos around the state gave Friday to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy. The 12-member group heard presentations, via Zoom, from representatives from all the tracks and casinos in the state, as it continues in its quest to put together a proposal that Ivey and state lawmakers can use to hopefully craft future gambling legislation. 

To move forward with almost any legislation will require an agreement of some sort between PCI, Lewis Benefield, who operates VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, and Nat Winn, the CEO of GreeneTrack. The owners of smaller electronic bingo halls in Greene and Lowndes Counties will also have some input. 

The tug of war between these various entities has, over the last several years, prevented an expansion of gambling. It also has left the state in a weird situation in which casinos are operating on a daily basis but there are numerous legal questions and the state is making very little in the way of tax dollars from any of them. 

But with public support for lotteries, sportsbooks and even full casino gambling at all-time highs (even a majority of Republican voters surveyed said they support full casinos in the state), and with neighboring states rapidly expanding offerings, state lawmakers seem ready to push through legislation to make it happen. 

And now, it seems, the two sides in this fight — PCI and the track owners — are ready to make a deal. 

“I feel like there’s a plan out there that would benefit all of us,” said Benefield, who is the son-in-law of Milton McGregor, who passed away in 2018. “I’d like to see us put together something that gets these customers back from surrounding states. I just really feel like we can work together.”

Benefield wasn’t alone in those feelings. 

Public Service Announcement

“We stand ready to sit down and talk (about a grand deal) with anyone,” said Arthur Mothershed, who, as vice president of business development for PCI, handled the tribe’s presentation on Friday. 

Mothershed and Benefield have each said previously, and APR has reported, that the tribe and the non-Indian entities have held several discussions over the last few months in a quest to work out a deal. 

There is a new, old player involved, however. 

Former Gov. Jim Folsom, now a lobbyist, represented several Greene County electronic bingo entities, including GreeneTrack, during the conference. Folsom and others representing the bingo casinos told the group that bingo is essentially the financial lifeblood for their county, and that without it multiple county services could go unfunded. 

Ivey’s study group has met four times with the goal of providing state lawmakers with clear answers on questions of revenue, risks and options for gaming types. Any legislation approved by lawmakers would have to be approved by voters.


Continue Reading



The V Podcast