Alabama Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Bill

The Alabama state Senate has approved a bill to legalize limited access to medical cannabis; the bill now heads to the House, where it faces an uncertain future.

Full story after the jump.

After a five-hour debate, the Alabama Senate passed a full-plant medical cannabis bill in a 22-10 vote last week; the bill, however, faces an uncertain future in the Alabama House.

If passed into law, the bill would allow patients to purchase medical cannabis at 34 access points throughout the state. However, only pills, patches, and topicals would be available under the proposal, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Tim Melson (R) told the Montgomery Advertiser after it passed. 

“There could have been more of an organized effort to slow it down, and I appreciate the body not doing that. We tried to address some very serious things. I’m not taking this bill lightly. It’s a big step for Alabama, and there’s still a long way to go.” — Sen. Tim Melson, in a statement after the vote

Qualifying conditions under the bill include “anxiety, autism, cancer-related illnesses, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, Tourette’s Syndrome and conditions causing chronic or intractable pain. By the end of the debate, another amendment was added to include menopause and postmenstrual syndrome on the list of qualifying conditions, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

A new commission, “The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission,” would be set up to administer patient registrations and medical cannabis business licenses. Notably, the Law includes a social justice piece, requiring 25% of the licenses be granted to minority-owned businesses.

“I will say there’s been a lot of concerns about big money, that this was only a way to get people to make money. My whole goal is to get it to patients who need it. Senator Melson continued. 

The bill comes after a year of discussion by the Alabama Cannabis Commission, which was asked to determine if medical cannabis would be right for the conservative state. The commission met three times and listened to both “pro” and “con” arguments for medical cannabis, including testimony from patients and doctors, and eventually produced the legislation. The bill now heads to the Alabama House of Representatives.

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