Alabama Senate approves medical marijuana bill

Alabama senators took only about 15 minutes this afternoon to pass a bill to regulate the production, sales and use of medical marijuana. The legislation would still have to pass the House of Representatives to become law. On a 21-8 vote, the Senate passed the bill by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence. It would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis products for a broad range of conditions such as anxiety, nausea, chronic pain, and sleep disorders. It would create a Medical Cannabis Commission that would oversee a “seed-to-sale” system, issuing licenses for the cultivating, processing, dispensing, transporting, and testing of medical cannabis. Patients with qualifying conditions would receive medical cannabis cards. The bill, called the Compassion Act, would make Alabama the 37th state to allow medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Senate has also passed the bill the last two years, but it has stalled in the House. Melson said the legislation this year is essentially the same as what the Senate passed last year. A medical researcher and anesthesiologist, Melson said the evidence makes a strong case that people in Alabama should be able to try medical cannabis products for conditions that conventional medications have not resolved.“I was skeptical five years ago,” Melson said. “I started listening to patients instead of the biased people and this is where we’re at today.”He said medical marijuana is not a miracle drug but can make a dramatic difference for some people who have tried other remedies without success.“I think that’s what we need to open our eyes and be willing to let people have that opportunity,” Melson said. Another senator who is also a physician voted against the bill. Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, an OB-GYN, has opposed Melson’s bill the last three years. He said there’s no basis for calling medical marijuana products “medical.”“First, there’s no such thing as medical marijuana. It’s just marijuana,” Stutts said. “From a medical aspect it’s just marijuana. And we have a process for products, for drugs, for medications to be approved, and we’re bypassing that entire process.”Melson’s bill would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis products to patients suffering from more than a dozen conditions, including anxiety or panic disorder; autism; nausea and weight loss caused by cancer or HIV; seizures; fibromyalgia; Crohn’s disease; post traumatic stress disorder; menopause or premenstrual symptoms; sleep disorders; spasticity associated with certain diseases or spinal cord injuries; a terminal illness; Tourette’s Syndrome; and chronic pain. Stutts said the list of qualifying conditions is too broad and general. He said it will lead to an increase in the recreational use of marijuana.“Anybody that wanted marijuana could get a cannabis card and can qualify for one of these medical conditions and get it,” Stutts said.

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