Alabama Senate passes medical marijuana bill. Here are the details.

Alabama Capitol
State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

For the third consecutive year a bill that would legalize medical marijuana passed the Alabama State Senate. 

Senate Bill 46, which is sponsored by Senator Tim Melson of Florence, passed by a 20-10 vote. 

Sen. Melson, who is a board certified anesthesiologist, is optimistic the legislation will make it through the House of Representatives this year.

What’s in the Bill?

Obviously, any legislation about the use of cannabis is going to raise some eyebrows here in Alabama. Many years ago, I learned from a friend of mine who lobbied the Alabama legislature, that if you ever want to know what is in legislation, start with reading the bill’s description. 

He told me it is like the “CliffsNotes” for the bill.

Below is the description of SB 46 without the many legislative citations. 

First – the legislation creates the “Compassion Act.”

It will do the following:

  • Provide civil and criminal protections to certain patients with a qualifying medical condition who have a valid medical cannabis card for the medical use of cannabis
  • Establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission and provide for its membership and duties
  • Provide for certification of patients to authorize use of medical cannabis
  • License and regulate the cultivation, processing, transporting, testing, and dispensing of medical cannabis
  • Prohibit certain types of medical cannabis products
  • Provide for patient registry and seed-to-sale tracking
  • Impose taxes
  • Provide certain legal protections for users of medical cannabis
  • Provide certain legal protections for employers
  • Provide further for workers’ compensation benefits in certain circumstances where an employee uses medical cannabis
  • Amend the crime of trespass in the first degree
  • Establish the Medical Cannabis Research Consortium to award research grants using tax proceeds

It is pretty comprehensive legislation.  If you want to read the entire bill, click here.

What’s Next

 Observers in Montgomery were surprised the legislation moved swiftly through the chamber with little debate. 

Two amendments were added to legislation, including an amendment by Sen. Bobby Singleton which added sickle cell-anemia to the list of covered conditions.

Roll Call

Here is the roll call. The Jefferson County delegation was split on the legislation with Senators Reed, Roberts and Shelnutt opposing the measure, while Waggoner, Smitherman and Coleman-Madison supported SB 46. Senator Priscilla Dunn passed on the vote. 

The bill now moves to the House. We’ll see if the third time’s a charm.  Stay tuned.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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