Alabama could be the 34th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. A proposed bill just passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee and now moves on to the Senate. Find out what it means for Alabama and Birmingham.
What the bill actually proposes
Who does the Alabama medical marijuana bill benefit?
There are up to 15 conditions where a doctor can recommend medical marijuana for a patient. These include:
- Chronic pain
The bill does not allow marijuana in the form of smoking or vaping products. Instead, it would include these forms which could be purchased at 34 dispensaries statewide:
- Gummy cubes
- Skin patches
- Gels and creams
“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well.”Quote via apnews.com from Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Colorado doctor and advocate for the Alabama bill. He described the success of using medical marijuana on people with seizures and cancer.
What else does it propose?
- To establish the first Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission and Fund
- To establish a Medical Cannabis Research Consortium
- To have the cultivation be regulated by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries
Who sponsors the bill?
Republican Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, sponsors the bill. According to ballotpedia.org, Melson earned his M.D. from UAB. He served as chief of anesthesia at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama.
Where is the Alabama medical marijuana bill currently living?
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 for the bill. It now joins the line for an Alabama Senate floor vote later this session.
What are the next steps?
Who supports the bill?
Along with Dr. Alan Shackelford and of course Republican Sen. Tim Melson, other supporters are pushing for the bill.
Credit where credit is due: Sen. Tim Melson should be applauded for his work on the medical marijuana issue – a rare case of an Alabama lawmaker doing a hard thing – and taking a political risk – because he thinks it’ll help people. #alpolitics— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) February 19, 2020
Cristi Cain, an Alabama mother, uses CBD oil to reduce the number of seizers her 8-year-old son has every day. According to AP News, she said in the hearing, “An area code shouldn’t affect one’s health care. If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees.”
Who’s against the Alabama medical marijuana bill?
According to the hill.com, law enforcement groups are currently against the proposed bill. Shelby County Capt. Clay Hammac spoke out with the statement, “Just because we put the word ‘medical’ in front of marijuana does not make it medicine.”
Capt. Clay Hammac with @ShelbyCountySO is speaking against the bill, he says the decision that could be made today could have a generational impact.— Reshad Hudson (@ReshadHudson) February 19, 2020
AP news reports the lone vote was cast by Sen. Larry Stutts. In addition to Stutts, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent the Senate a letter with objections to the bill, too.
Where is marijuana legal in the U.S. today?
ProCon.org reports as of July 2019 this is where general marijuana laws stand:
- Medical marijuana use is legal in 33 states and the district of Columbia
- Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states and the district of Columbia
Keep in mind, Birmingham wants to legalize medical marijuana, not recreational. Each state varies, check out ProCon.org to see conditions.
Birmingham and marijuana laws
Obviously, no use of marijuana is legal in Birmingham. However, the city has touched on the subject.
Second chances for those with a marijuana conviction
Mayor Woodfin introduced Pardons for Progress in the fall of 2019. It offers a second chance for those in Birmingham with a single marijuana conviction. It extends to a single prior conviction of Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, 2nd Degree. Additionally, the Office of the Mayor will consider a connected Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
CBD makes its introduction into the city—including a coffee shop
As a reminder, CBD does not contain the psychoactive component THC. However, even CBD oil had a tricky history in Alabama until the Farm Bill passed in 2018 was clarified: CBD from industrial hemp is legal in the state of Alabama.
- Birmingham opened its first CBD store in 2018. It was closed and the owner was arrested before the Farm Bill clarification but re-opened later.
- In 2018, UAB confirmed in a study that CBD oil significantly reduced the frequency, severity and adverse effects of seizures in participants.
- Revaltor introduced CBD-infused drinks to its menu in 2019.
- Southside opened its first CBD-only store in 2019.