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Medical Cannabis Study Commission has a draft bill

Brandon Moseley

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The legislature assigned the Medical Cannabis Study Commission with the task of making a recommendation to the Alabama legislature on what a medical marijuana bill would look like in the state of Alabama. The Commission met on Thursday and for the first time began working on a first draft of that legislation.

State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) Chairs the Commission and likely will be the Senate sponsor of the bill when it is introduced in the 2020 legislative session.

“We do not have smoking in this bill and the raw plant will not be allowed,” Melson said.

Dr. Steven Stokes is the vice chair of the commission.

Stokes said that the bill will not allow the public to purchase the actual marijuana plant or plant material; but would be in a liquid form.

The Commission also discussed a bill format and marijuana edible products.

Dr. Stokes said, “I am very concerned about a child getting into something like (marijuana laced) gummies and overdosing.”

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Dr. Alan Shackelford is a very pro marijuana doctor who was presenting the case for medical marijuana.

“Yes, there has been a problem in Colorado,” Shackelford admitted. “Now it is illegal in Colorado to have a product like gummies. I want it more medical myself.”

Shackelford said that he also warns his patients to stay away from the marijuana brownies; but added “There needs to be an ingestible product.”

The bill will list a number of conditions that marijuana can be used to treat. It will also create a permanent Commission to regulate the medical marijuana industry in Alabama.

The Director of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association Barry Matson expressed his concerns about marijuana advertising in states like Oklahoma and Florida.

Melson agreed, “Advertising would not be appropriate.”

The bill was described as “Very pro-employer.” Persons with a medical marijuana card would not be entitled to workmen’s comp if they were hurt in an accident on the job.

There will be legal protection for “licensed facilities if they are acting in compliance with the rules in this act.”

The Commission members have no specific requirements for expertise; but they must have been continuous residents of Alabama for the last five years. The commission will appoint a director.

The bill would defines what a registered qualified patient is. This version of the bill bans doctors from owning dispensaries as a conflict of interests.

The commission discussed reciprocity at length and appeared to be learning towards not honoring the medical cannabis cards of other states.

Dr. Shackelford said, “Smoking (marijuana) is becoming passe, It is going to liquids, edibles, and dabs.”

Matson warned that there could be “unintended consequences” from this legislation.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Haarriss said, “I don’t know why it would be with the Department of Agriculture. They have only one investigator. They still have not finished the rules for hemp.”

Dr. Harris suggested that marijuana should be regulated instead by the state ABC Board which regulates alcohol in the state because they have investigators.

“We need to look at other states cards being accepted in Alabama,” Sen. Melson said. “I want people that need it to be able to get it to get it and those that don’t not.”

Dr Shackelford said that in Colorado the covered conditions for medical marijuana are: cancer, HIV/Aids, glaucoma, cachexia, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, persistent muscle spasms, PTSD was added in June 2017 and autism was added in April 2019.

In the bill, to recommend marijuana a physician must complete a two hour course and be registered by the commission. They must be physically in the same room with the patient to certify them as needing the marijuana. The consent form has to be filled out. It is similar to Florida’s.

There was discussion about who can see the medical marijuana registry. It would include law enforcement and certified nurse midwifes.

Matson objected to sleep disorders and migraines being included in the bill ashere covered conditions.

“This is just a draft,” Melson said. “If you have a concern about a condition being on there or not we can discuss that.”

Licensees under the bill would include: cultivator, processor. dispensary, secure transporter, testing laboratory there will only be one, and an integrated facility that does the growing the processing and the dispensing.

Licensees have to consent to law enforcement searches at any time. Counties and cities can ban this in their jurisdictions.

There was discussion about banning it some distance from a school and if that should include daycares.

There will be provisions in the bill requiring security at these facilities and that all weight of product is tracked so that all of it is accounted for that is grown, harvested, processed, and sold.

If the bill passes the Commission would start accepting applications on September 1.

The Commission is expected to be finished with a bill by December 1.

State Representative Mike Ball told the Alabama Political Reporter, “It’s time, we need this.”

Melson said that the bill “will live or die” in the legislature.

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.

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Alabama lawmaker pre-files legislation to allow removal of Confederate monuments

If passed, the measure would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property.

Brandon Moseley

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A Confederate monument in Birmingham's Linn Park was removed. As have monuments and memorials in Mobile and on the campus of the University of Alabama.

Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, introduced legislation this week in advance of the 2021 legislative session that, if passed, would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property. Givan’s bill, HB8, would also provide for the relocation of historic memorials to sites appropriate for public display.

“Across the state of Alabama, citizens are calling for the removal of prominently placed statues and monuments that are insensitive or offensive to the communities that surround them,” Givan said. “City and county governments must be able to address the demands of their citizens. This legislation provides a tool for local governments to safely remove these artifacts so that they can be moved to a site more appropriate for preserving or displaying the historical monument.”

Removing the monuments and historical markers is currently illegal under Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2017. Givan has been an outspoken opponent of that Republican-sponsored legislation. In 2018, Givan introduced a measure to repeal the bill that barred the removal of monuments.

“I believe HB8 can achieve bipartisan support,” Givan said. “My bill seeks to balance the wishes of the people. It respects the will of communities that want the monuments removed. It also respects those who wish to preserve history. With this legislation, Confederate monuments could be relocated to a public site, like Confederate Memorial Park, whose purpose and mission is to interpret and tell these stories. When the Legislature convenes, I hope to have the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

If enacted, HB8 would permit county and municipal governments to remove memorial monuments, including permanent statues, portraits and markers, located on public property in their jurisdictions. It would require a transfer of ownership of the removed monuments to the Alabama Department of Archives and History or the Alabama Historical Commission. Finally, the bill would instruct Archives and History or the Historical Commission to maintain and display monuments removed by local authorities in a location accessible for public display.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of Confederate monuments and memorials across the country, released an update to its Whose Heritage report, which tracks symbols of the Confederacy on public land across the United States. They report at least 30 Confederate symbols have been removed or relocated since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

These include 24 monuments removed, 5 monuments relocated and the Mississippi state flag replaced. Since the Charleston church shooting in 2015, 115 total symbols have been removed from public spaces. These include 87 monuments that have been removed or relocated from public spaces. At least 78 monuments were removed and nine were relocated.

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SPLC says there are still nearly 1,800 Confederate symbols on public land, and 739 of those symbols are monuments. The SPLC has prepared an “action guide” to help community activists target Confederate historical markers and memorials for removal.

President Donald Trump has denounced what he calls “cancel culture” that seeks to remove historical monuments and statutes.

“There is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure,” Trump said. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”

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Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July

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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.

 

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

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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.

 

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

Eddie Burkhalter

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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.

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