The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report to a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for persons with a demonstrated medical need. Senate Bill 46 is sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee brought seventeen amendments to the legislation. Some were accepted by Melson and some were opposed.
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, amended the bill to give municipalities the right to reject marijuana dispensaries at the discretion of the city council. Likewise, county commissions would have the authority to reject dispensaries in unincorporated areas of their counties if they so choose.
Rep. Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga, amended the bill to require that there be a public hearing and public notification before a medical marijuana facility is sited in a community.
Faulkner proposed removing persistent nausea, anxiety and panic attacks, and menopause from the list of qualifying medical conditions while adding Parkinson’s. Melson said that he favored the addition of Parkinson’s Disease, but not the removal of the three other conditions.
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, facetiously asked Faulkner if he had ever had any experience with menopause or PMS.
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, wanted to add depression to the list of approved medical conditions.
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, said that doctors should be the ones voting to add and subtract medical conditions to the approved treatment list and not the lawyers and law enforcement members that comprise the House Judiciary Committee. Since SB46 is going to the House Health Committee next, that would be a more appropriate committee to be making medical judgments.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Hill, R-Odenville, said the Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, is adamant that SB46 be sent to the House Health Committee next.
Normally a bill is assigned to just one committee. In this case, both the House Judiciary and House Health Committees will have opportunities to study and modify the legislation before it will be allowed to be brought to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Robbins amended the bill to put a designee of the Alabama State Health Officer as a voting member of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. Melson agreed to that change.
Robbins, however, felt that there was no need for a commission and that the Health Department with cooperation from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries would be sufficient to regulate medical cannabis in the state.
Melson said that he had spoken to both State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate and that both of them did not want to be the agency responsible for regulating the industry. Robbins felt that they should not have a choice in the matter.
“They don’t have the expertise,” Melson argued. Ultimately the Judiciary Committee left the commission in place.
Faulkner wanted to require that persons that are 19 and 20 years old could only get a medical marijuana prescription from a doctor if their parents or legal guardian signed that they could.
Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said that 20-year-olds don’t have legal guardians in Alabama and that the Alabama Supreme Court would strike that.
Robbins said that we just raised the age to purchase tobacco to 21, limit alcohol sales to people 21 and older, and are regulating that transgender children may not get medical treatments until they are 19. So yes, he argued, the Legislature does have the power to limit medical marijuana prescriptions to persons age 21 and older, unless they have a signature from their parents.
Farley said: “Where I come from, 19- and 20-year-olds often spend all day working at a plant and have a baby at home.”
Ultimately that idea was rejected.
Both Reps. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, and Wes Allen, R-Troy, voted against giving SB46, as amended a favorable report.
Hill thanked both Robbins and Faulkner for their work on SB46 and asked that they write the adopted amendments into some sort of a substitute to make the bill more presentable for the Health Committee.
Wednesday was day 20 of the 2021 Alabama Legislative Session.