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Medical marijuana legislation to be introduced this week

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) told the Alabama Political Reporter that he anticipates introducing his medical marijuana legislation on Tuesday.

Melson said that he and the Alabama Legislative Services Agency were working on the final language in the bill. A key final sticking point is how businesses can deal with medical marijuana users in the workplace. Melson said that some business groups want employers to be able to fire anyone who uses marijuana even under the care and advice of a physician. There are also concerns as to whether or not an employee injured on the job with a medical marijuana prescription from their doctor should be allowed to receive workman’s compensation or not.

Melson thought that there should be some workplace protections for employees who take medical marijuana legally.

Melson’s bill is based on a draft that was approved by the Alabama Medicial Cannabis Study Commission which from August to December to study the issue of medical marijuana. Melson chaired that commission.

The bill would not allow for recreational marijuana. It is strictly limited to people with a diagnosed medical need, who have it prescribed by a healthcare provider.

The bill would allow farmers to obtain a medical marijuana growing license. There would be no farm to consumer sales and no legalization of home grown for personal use. The state would also license processors, transporters, and dispensaries. There would be strict control of inventory from the farm to the consumer. The medical marijuana would be taxed and the taxes used to fund a Medical Marijuana Commission which would regulate the cannabis industry in the state.

Opponent argue that medical marijuana is not legal under federal law and that medical marijuana eventually leads to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Senator Melson counters with the warning that if the state does not act and the federal government does then the state could face the same situation that it did with hemp. There the federal government legalized industrial hemp in the Farm Bill. Suddenly cannabidiol was legal and stores popped up all over the state selling CBD was being sold to stores with no regulation, licensing, and no input from the healthcare community. Melson supports de-scheduling marijuana at the federal level; but warned that the state needs to put medical cannabis regulations in place for that eventuality.

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Melson is a career anesthesiologist.

Melson said that he was confident that the bill, like last year’s bill, would pass the Senate; but was worried that it could get bogged down in committee in the Alabama House of Representatives.

State Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison) carried the bill in the House last year; but while he is still passionate about the issue, is not sure that he will carry the bill in the House this year.

“My focus is on ethics this year,” Ball told APR.

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Ball said that his bill would improve on the ethics law that the state legislature has been working under since 2010.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with over nine years at Alabama Political Reporter. During that time he has written 8,297 articles for APR. 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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Crime

Alabama officials watching for possible armed protests

The Montgomery Police Department will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, girding for potentially violent demonstrations.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

It wasn’t clear Friday whether armed protestors would show up at Alabama’s Capitol building this weekend after an FBI internal report this week warned that there were plans for armed demonstrations in state capitals across the country until Inauguration Day.

First reported by ABC News and corroborated by numerous other news outlets, the FBI’s memo warns that continued violence targeting state capitols remains possible between now and President-elect-Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to the Associated Press

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Robyn Bryan, in a message to APR on Friday, said the agency continues to monitor activity for public safety concerns “and possible threats related to the ongoing protests across the nation.” 

“ALEA recognizes that United States Citizens have constitutionally protected rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. ALEA safeguards these first amendment rights, and reports on only those activities where the potential use of rhetoric and/or propaganda could be used to carry out acts of violence,” Bryan continued. “Additionally, potential criminality exhibited by certain members of a group does not negate the constitutional rights of the group itself or its law-abiding participants to exercise their individual liberties under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” 

The Montgomery Police Department on Friday issued a warning in a tweet to anyone who might plan to bring a firearm to a demonstration. 

“Be mindful that it shall be unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to have a firearm in his or her possession or in any vehicle at a point within 1,000 feet of a demonstration at a public place,” the department said in the tweet, citing a portion of Alabama’s state law.

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Montgomery Police will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, Capt. Saba Coleman of the Montgomery Police Department said in a message to APR on Friday.  

“It’s no exaggeration to say that Trump’s army of domestic terrorists came close to mounting the first successful coup in American history,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking to reporters Friday during a briefing on a report the group released on right-wing extremists attempting to overshadow Biden’s inauguration.

“Now our nation stands at the edge of the abyss. Threats of violence are steadily escalating, with some of Trump’s followers talking openly of civil war. Law enforcement personnel are bracing for potential violence this weekend at the armed protests planned for Washington D.C. and all 50 state capitals,” Huang said. 

Michael Hayden, lead investigative reporter at the SPLC, told reporters during the briefing that the odds for violence “are a lot higher than I’ve seen in a long time.” 

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“And that’s largely to do with the rhetoric that we’re seeing,” Hayden said. 

The chances of far-right extreme groups coming together for another large event in Washington D.C. in the coming days is less likely because of the additional security measures in place since the Capitol attack, Hayden said, adding that leaders of some of the larger extremist groups have urged followers not to go to Washington D.C. 

“I’m not saying it’s impossible to generate a large crowd in Washington D.C. I’m just saying that there are huge obstacles that they did not face on January 6, and it’s missing that sort of galvanizing moment of the Trump rally,” Hayden said. 

Demonstrations at state capitols are far more likely to galvanize crowds, Hayden said. In his work monitoring extremists online he has seen the sharing of maps of state capitols, dotted with pinpoints where groups want people to go, he said. 

Some states have publicized bolstered security around their capitols, a sign that perhaps those state officials have more information about possible threats than SPLC has access to, Hayden said.

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Congress

After aid to deadly rally, Republican Attorneys General Association director resigns

Alabama AG Steve Marshall leads the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which paid for robocalls promoting the rally.

Eddie Burkhalter

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People are seen in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association resigned Monday amid mounting criticism after the group’s policy arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, paid for robocalls urging people to attend the rally that resulted in a riot and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who heads the Rule of Law Defense Fund, in a statement Monday did not address why RAGA’s executive director, Adam Piper, resigned. 

“Every decision Adam made on behalf of RLDF was with the best of intentions and with the organization’s best interests in mind,” Marshall said in a statement. “Adam leaves a void that will be difficult to replace, but we wish Adam well as he pursues other opportunities that will allow him to spend more time with his family.” 

“Serving Republican attorneys general has been the honor of a lifetime and honestly a dream job,” Piper said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press. 

Democratic Attorneys General Association executive director Sean Rankin in a statement to APR called for more accountability. 

“The issue here was more than the robocall, and I hope what follows is a move to accountability for actions outside the bounds and for greater civility among state Attorneys General,” Rankin said in the statement. 

Prior to the protest, RLDF sent out robocalls detailing when and where citizens should meet, which was first reported by the watchdog investigative journalism group Documented. 

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“We will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” the robocall says, as recorded by Documented. “We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com. This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund.” 

Marshall, speaking to The Montgomery Advertiser on Monday after a press conference on human trafficking and before Piper’s resignation was announced, said the internal review is ongoing.

Asked by the Advertiser whether he felt Trump bore any responsibility for the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, and for comment on Trump’s potential impeachment, Marshall declined to comment. 

“I didn’t see anything about the rally,” Marshall said, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know anything about his remarks.” 

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Former RAGA chairman and current member Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spoke at the Wednesday rally just before riots broke out, criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court, which quickly dismissed his lawsuit seeking to overturn election results in Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Marshall and 15 other Republican attorneys general signed on to Paxton’s failed lawsuit. 

“One of the great things about the state of Texas is that we did not quit. If you look at what Georgia did, they capitulated,” Paxton told the crowd before the riots. 

Prior to his resignation, Piper sent a statement to APR blaming the robocall call on staff. 

“The Republican Attorneys General Association and Rule of Law Defense Fund had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring, or the organization of yesterday’s rally,” Piper said:

“No Republican AG authorized the staff’s decision to amplify a colleague speaking at the rally. Organizationally and individually, we strongly condemn and disavow the events which occurred. Yesterday was a dark day in American history and those involved in the violence and destruction of property must be prosecuted and held accountable.”

Several companies told The New York Times that they were reviewing their support of RAGA, though none said they planned to cut ties, according to the newspaper

Cherokee Nation decided to withdraw its $150,000 contribution to the Republican Attorneys General Association on Monday, citing the robocall as inappropriate, according to News on 6, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, news station.

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Elections

Sewell condemns actions, comments by Republican colleagues

Sewell called for Republican colleagues who shared in conspiracy theories over the election to be held accountable.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, during a congressional hearing.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, in a statement to APR on Monday called out some of her Republican colleagues, specifically Congressmen Mo Brooks and Barry Moore, for what she described as their “irresponsible and inflammatory remarks” regarding the election outcome and statements made surrounding the deadly attack of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. 

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Alabama, on Sunday had his personal Twitter account suspended, and then he deleted his account, after two tweets he made regarding the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol drew criticism. 

“Wow we have more arrests for stealing a podium on January 6th than we do for stealing an election on November 3rd. Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit, would be places I recommend you start; there is video evidence of these crimes as well! #ElectionIntegrityMatters,” Moore tweeted on Saturday. 

Before his account was suspended and deleted, Moore also tweeted in reference to the death of Ashli Babbit, 35, who was shot by a Capitol Police officer when she tried to crawl through a broken window inside the Capitol during the siege.

“@mtgreenee @NARAL I understand it was a black officer that shot the white female veteran . You know that doesn’t fit the narrative,” Moore tweeted Saturday. The tweet has since been deleted, but it has been archived by Pro Publica’s Politwoops project.

At least five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, have been killed related to the siege. Another Capitol Hill police officer, Howard Liebengood, who responded to the attack, died Saturday off duty, marking the second Capitol Police officer death since Wednesday. Police did not release his cause of death.

“Since Wednesday’s violent assault at the U.S. Capitol, I have been repeatedly asked my thoughts about the actions and comments of my Alabama colleagues, especially Rep. Mo Brooks and now Rep. Barry Moore,” Sewell said in a statement to APR on Monday. “While the Alabama congressional delegation has had a history of civility, if not congeniality, irrespective of political party, I cannot let the irresponsible and inflammatory remarks of some of my colleagues go unanswered.”

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She went on to say:

“It’s not okay for elected officials to continue to peddle lies and conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud and an allegedly-stolen presidential election.  President-Elect Biden won the election. There are simply no credible allegations of fraud, and upwards of 60 cases filed alleging problems with the election have been heard and dismissed by the courts. There are Trump appointed U.S. Attorneys throughout the country who were authorized by former Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate and prosecute allegations of fraud. Not one case has been filed by any of these Trump appointees.

“It is not okay for my congressional colleagues to use their public platform to incite Americans to overturn our election, storm the U.S. Capitol or assault our democracy. It’s called an insurrection and such seditious behavior must have consequences.  

“It’s not okay to use racial overtones to further spread deceptive narratives that perpetuate the lie that caused last week’s violent events. 

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“Such lawmakers must be held accountable. Their words and actions do matter and their complicity in inciting the vicious attack on our democracy must not go unchecked. I am deeply and personally offended by the outrageous comments and every Alabamian that believes in our democracy should be, too.”

Sewell was forced to shelter inside the Capitol after Trump supporters stormed the building, prompting the evacuation of some and a barricading of others as police tried to get control of an out-of-control siege.

Moore didn’t answer APR‘s questions Sunday about those tweets directly, but his chief of staff sent APR a statement from Moore on Sunday afternoon. 

“Lawlessness is not the answer to our nation’s problems, and every person who acts unlawfully is responsible for their own actions and should be held accountable to the full extent of the law, whether that’s Black Lives Matter, Antifa or Wednesday’s rioters,” Moore said in the statement. 

Brooks was an early supporter of challenging the certification of election results, an action that pleased President Donald Trump and his allies seeking to overturn the election, and spoke to the crowd gathered near the Capitol before the attack. 

“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks yelled into his microphone. After the riots began, Brooks tweeted an unfounded rumor alleging it was antifa who started the rioting.

The day after the attack, Brooks told an Alabama conservative talk radio host that he had no regrets over his speech prior to the violence, according to The Intercept, telling the host that there was “mounting evidence of fascist antifa’s involvement in all of this.” 

The Federal Bureau of Investigations said on Friday that there was no evidence of antifa aiding pro-Trump supporters in the deadly attack. 

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House

Governor sets special election dates for House District 73 races

Gov. Kay Ivey set the special primary election for March 30 and the general for July 13.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday set special election dates for Alabama House District 73, a seat that was held by Matt Fridy, who was elected to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Ivey set the special primary election for March 30 and the special primary runoff, if necessary, for April 27. Ivey set the special general election for July 13. 

“The election for House District 73 coincides with the special election for the vacant state senate seat so that we can ensure the people of Shelby County have representation,” Ivey said in a statement. “I encourage everyone in this district to get out and vote. Let’s make sure that you have a strong voice advocating for you in the Alabama Legislature.”

The qualifying deadline for candidates of major parties is Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. The deadline for all independent candidates and/or minor parties is March 30 at 5 p.m.

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