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