Medical marijuana is one of the most controversial bills facing the Alabama legislature in the upcoming legislative session that begins next week.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission has produced a draft bill that addresses many of the concerns from law enforcement, employers, the business community, educators, farmers, and medical professionals.
State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence), who chaired the commission, will sponsor the bill that was approved by the Commission in December. The impetus behind the bill is for medical providers to be able to legally prescribe cannabis to persons who the medical provider believes has a legitimate medical need for cannabis.
Some marijuana advocates had hoped for a more all-encompassing marijuana bill that was more of a bridge toward the goal of marijuana legalization in the state.
Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) recently outline a number of changes in the proposed bill that they would like to see in the legislature.
The bill creates a new state agency, the Medical Marijuana Commission. RAMP is asking that some seats on that Commission be reserved for patients.
“Patients are stakeholders are the targets of these policies, so policy input should be needed when it comes to how they will be regulated. Regulation without representation isn’t optimal or American,” RAMP wrote.
They are also asking that THC cap must be removed entirely. The bill as proposed would cap the amount of THC that a doctor can prescribe at 75 milligrams per day. They claim that physicians should have more flexibility than this.-
RAMP also would like to see a clear deadline for the program to be actively servicing patients, for chronic pain’ to the list of qualifying conditions, and for changes to the patient form required which they claim “provides an overbearing legal liability for the patient.”
“Unless a medical necessity defense is worked into this bill, this form presents a problem for patients because they are essentially signing something that admits to breaking federal law,” RAMP wrote.
Despite their stated concerns, RAMP stated, “Overall, this bill is a good starting place.”
Ann Lee is the Co-founder and Executive Director of RAMP. Marty Schelper is the other Co-Founder.
RAMP claims that, “There is overwhelming evidence of marijuana’s safe and effective treatment for patients who do not respond well to a bevy of prescription drugs.”
Other complaints from marijuana advocates with the legislation are that: there is no legal smokable product, edibles like marijuana brownies remain illegal, there is no advertising allowed for doctors who prescribe marijuana, the tax placed on medical marijuana, and no legalization of home grown marijuana. Under the bill it would remain illegal for anyone not licensed by the Commission to possess any parts of the raw plant. Alabama employers would also be able to still fire marijuana users even if they had a prescription for the drug.
Chey Lindsey Garrigan is the Executive Director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association. She said that their focus is on getting aid to people with a demonstrable medical need and she thanked Senator Melson and State Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison) for bringing the legislation.
“We applaud the efforts of Representative Mike Ball and Senator Tim Melson,” Garrigan said. “We encourage the public to go on RAMP’s Facebook page and tell your medical story.”
The Alabama Political Reporter talked with several legislators who expressed opposition to the bill, not for being too restrictive; but rather for not being restrictive enough. Some have expressed their concerns that medical marijuana would lead eventually to the legalization of recreational marijuana. There was also concerns that legalization of medical marijuana would result in more young people using the drug and that there would be more cases of motorists on the road under the influence of marijuana. Some legislators are opposed to any medical marijuana legalization in the state and say that the drug is still illegal under federal law and that medical marijuana should be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, before it is further decriminalized by the Alabama legislature.