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Medical marijuana bill advanced by committee

The legislation can now be considered by the full Alabama House of Representatives.

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama House Health Committee voted Thursday to give a favorable report to legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Alabama.

Senate Bill 46 is sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence. Melson is an anesthesiologist who has worked in medical research for years. He chaired the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission in 2019. SB46 is based on the findings of that commission.

The Alabama House Health Committee gave a favorable report on SB46 Thursday by a voice vote after a public hearing and lengthy work session on Wednesday in which several amendments were added to the legislation.

During the hearing, Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, amended the bill to exclude patients with menopause, PMS and fibromyalgia. An amendment from Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, that would have further reduced the number of medical conditions was tabled by the committee.

While the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association still supports the overall legislation, they did note that most fibromyalgia sufferers are women as well as all PMS and menopause sufferers.

Melson said that he reluctantly accepted the amendment as chronic pain is still an approved treatable condition and that chronic pain is the symptom of fibromyalgia sufferers often cite.

House Health Committee Chairman Paul Lee, R-Dothan, amended the bill to require that marijuana dispensaries have 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week videotaping.

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The bill was also amended to allow assisted living facilities to have limited liability under the legislation. And to require every doctor who is licensed to recommend marijuana be charged a fee of $300 for the license and up to $200 a year to renew their marijuana recommending privilege.

A doctor who is not licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which is created by the legislation, cannot write a recommendation for medical cannabis from a marijuana dispensary.

The substitute version of the bill changes the word prescription to recommendation as prescriptions are written for pharmacies.

Melson said that he would like to have allowed pharmacists to be licensed to dispense marijuana prescriptions, but cannot with marijuana currently being classified as a class one forbidden drug by the federal government.

The committee rejected an amendment from Mooney that would have regulated all tetrahyrocannabinoids under this legislation. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive component in marijuana. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol and other of the various deltas derived from hemp are legally sold across the country. Melson said that he did not want to do anything that would harm the hemp farmers or make CBD a controlled substance in Alabama.

Mooney said that the amendment was given to him by Attorney General Steve Marshall.

“I have been trying to talk to him for three years, and he won’t return my phone calls,” Melson said.

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An amendment to another piece of legislation, House Bill 2, was added by a Senate committee, adding Delta 8 and Delta 10 to the Alabama controlled substance list. HB2 was carried over on Thursday by the Senate.

SB46 can be considered by the full House of Representatives as early as Tuesday.

“We estimate that over 250,000 Alabamians will qualify for medical marijuana under this legislation,” said Chey Garrigan, executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association. “Thirty-nine states in the nation have already legalized medical marijuana in some form and allow their citizens to get the health benefits of a plant that is commonly grown and used throughout the world.”

Medical marijuana legislation has passed the Alabama Senate for the last three years. This is the first time it has gotten out of committee in the Alabama House of Representatives though.

Thursday was day 23 of the 2021 Legislative Session. If approved by the House, SB46 will still have to go back to the Senate, because the House Health and Judiciary Committees passed out a substitute version of the original Senate legislation.

Brandon Moseley
Written By

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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