On Wednesday February 24, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions. This is the third time in recent years that the Senate has passed such a bill only for it to later die in the House. Last year an almost identical bill was passed but was never even debated in the House because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The bill’s sponsor Senator Tim Melson hopes that this year things will be different.
“It’s encouraging to see lawmakers making progress towards legalizing medical marijuana in Alabama,” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “It is morally wrong to continue to treat Alabamans who suffer from serious medical conditions as criminals for using a substance that is now legal in 36 states. However, we urge lawmakers to revise the provisions of the bill that create significant barriers for patients and their physicians.”
As soon as Medical Marijuana legislation is passed in Alabama, Leafwell will seek to provide our services. You can join the waitlist today to be one of our first patients.
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Senate Passes Legalization Bill in 15 Minutes or Less
With multiple attempts to pass similar legislation in the past it should be no surprise that SB46, also known as the Compassion Act was passed with a vote of 21-8 in favor. It only took a brief 15-minute discussion for the Senate to make their decision only weeks after it was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with an 8-3 vote.
Under the bill patients with qualifying conditions would be eligible for a medical marijuana card. Those conditions include:
- anxiety or panic disorder
- chronic pain
- nausea and weight loss caused by cancer or HIV
- Crohn’s disease
- menopause or premenstrual symptoms
- sleep disorders
- spasticity associated with certain diseases or spinal cord injuries
- terminal illnesses
- Tourette’s Syndrome
The Compassion Act would also implement a Medical Cannabis Commission (MCC) that would oversee a seed-to-sale system, issue licenses for cultivating, processing dispensing, transporting, and testing. Patients would also apply with the MCC to receive their medical marijuana card.
Along with legalizing medicinal use and creating the Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee things, the Compassion Act does something few states have done – it taxes medical marijuana sales at 9 percent. After covering the cost of implementing the new law, 60 percent of that tax revenue would go to the state’s general fund while 30 percent would go into research on the medicinal potential of cannabis.
Alabama Legalization Bill Restricts Treatment Options for Patients
As per usual, some have already voiced concerns over the list of qualifying conditions, calling it “too broad” and suggesting that it opens the doorway to recreational use through the medicinal program. However, considering the many restrictions that Alabama has put into the Compassion Act, it is unlikely that it will easily be taken advantage of.
The bill does not allow for plant matter or concentrates that can be smoked or vaporized; they also prohibit candy and baked goods. In fact, the bill stipulates that patients are only allowed to purchase capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories, and topical patches.
Patients will also only be allowed to have a supply of up to 70 daily doses. An amendment made on the floor prior to the vote reduced the maximum daily dose from 75 milligrams to 50 milligrams, though the amendments sponsor says that it may still be increased to 75 milligrams under some circumstances.
“We live in a time when something happens, right away we hear it,” Melson said. “If somebody’s family member has it, we see it. I just started listening to people. Listen, I’m not a recreational marijuana person, I don’t want that in this state. I just want the patients who need it to have it.”
The Senate Historically Kills MMJ Bills, Will This Time Be Different?
With three failed attempts in recent years, it might seem like just another shot in the dark by the Senate, hoping that the House will change their minds this time and approve the bill. However, Senator Melson believes that the bill stands a better chance this time around, that support for medical marijuana is growing even in the House.
While this may be true, other factors could also push the House into passing the bill even if they aren’t fully “comfortable” with medical marijuana in the first place. Neighboring Mississippi recently legalized medicinal use and more conservative states like Kentucky and South Carolina are even expected to seriously consider medical marijuana legislation in the coming year.
The bill is extremely restrictive compared to many states that have legalized medical marijuana use when other southern states, like Florida, have implemented large-scale programs with far less restriction on products patients can choose from.
The proposed Compassion Act is not the most comprehensive medical marijuana law that Alabama could pass. But considering past attempts, the restrictive bill may stand a chance of becoming law in the future, providing relief to thousands of patients. Leafwell will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops.