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Medical marijuana legislation held over another week

Medical marijuana legislation was held up in committee while representatives spend more time writing amendments.

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For another week, medical marijuana legislation was carried over on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 46 is sponsored by state Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence.

SB46 passed the Senate and then was assigned by the House Rules Committee to the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville.

A public hearing was held by the committee on March 11, but the vote on the bill was postponed for another week.

The following week, the committee passed the controversial anti-rioting bill but did not address SB46. The following week the Legislature was away on vacation.

On Wednesday, March 31, Hill said, “For those of you are here for the medical marijuana legislation, members want to prepare amendments to the bill and they need more time to work on those amendments.”

At this point, the vote on SB46 is tentatively scheduled for the next Judiciary Committee meeting on April 7. If and when the House Judiciary Committee decides to advance the bill, House leadership has it assigned to go next to the House Health Committee.

Most bills, even something as important as the state budgets, only have to clear one committee before they can be considered by the full body of that House. A rare exception was made by House leadership for the medical marijuana bill.

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Chey Garrigan is the executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

“They put the vote off til next week, please keep continuing to contact your representatives,” Garrigan said. “I want to thank everybody that has reached out to their state legislators. Keep doing that. It is having an effect. They are still working on amendments to the bill.”

Many supporters of the legislation find certain aspects of the bill, as it came out of the Senate, troubling. These include the severe limits on the number of approved medical marijuana growers; that it requires patients to try everything else, including dangerous opioids, before receiving medical cannabis; and the maximum dosage limitations.

Many opponents of the legislation would like to see SB46 made even more restrictive.

Since the bill now appears likely to be amended in the House, if passed by the House, it will still have to go back to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.

Thirty-three states already have some form of legalized medical marijuana. SB46 would not allow marijuana to be prescribed in its raw form and would not allow a smokable product or an edible product like marijuana brownies or gummies.

To get a medical marijuana prescription one must be diagnosed with a medical condition, where cannabis is a treatment approved by the Alabama Legislature. The entire medical marijuana industry will be strictly regulated by the Alabama Medical Marijuana Commission, which would be set up by the Legislature.

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Thursday will be day 18 of the 2021 Legislative Session.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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