Many members of the Baldwin and Mobile legislative delegations tell Lagniappe they favor legalizing medical marijuana, as a bill that has passed the State Senate twice will most likely be re-introduced in the upcoming session of the Alabama Legislature.
After previous attempts to decriminalize medical cannabis passed the House and Senate, this latest attempt sponsored by State Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, looks to legalize the drug completely for use in a number of ailments, including premenstrual syndrome, menopause, anxiety, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, chronic pain and other issues.
The bill does not allow for medical cannabis to be smoked, vaped or put into baked goods to be used. Rather, the legislation would permit patients to take a gel cube, pill or nebulizer.
The bill, as written, passed the upper chamber in 2019 and 2020 and sponsors are confident it could pass that chamber again during the next session.
“It may change. The House might make changes, but I hope it at least goes to a vote,” Melson said. “I think the governor will sign it. She’s very open-minded to science. I don’t think it will be an issue.”
State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, said he voted for the bill and would do so again if given the chance.
“I have family members going through medical issues, and I understand that it can certainly help certain issues,” he said.
Elliott said he has not discussed the bill in detail, but since it has passed the Senate twice, he believes the House might have to act on it this time.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, also said he was one of the 22 senators who supported the bill last session.
It is uncertain how the House might approach the legislation. Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, has introduced several medical cannabis bills into the chamber, which have become law. He has said in a previous interview he feels confident the House has the votes to pass the bill this time too, but isn’t sure.
The bill, called the Compassion Act, was set for a vote in the House during the last session, but got derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local representatives, contacted by Lagniappe, did not show opposition to the bill.
Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, said he hadn’t researched it enough to have an opinion. While his GOP colleague Shane Stringer said he supported it.
“I think it’s something we need to consider and look at,” Stringer said. “We’ve got to make sure we use the right wording.”
Stringer, who is a former law enforcement officer, said the scientific evidence is strong enough to support it.
“We have enough scientific proof that it’s helpful for cancer and seizures,” he said. “It might be able to take the place of some of these opioids.”
Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, also supports medical cannabis.
“Obviously, it’s helpful to some people,” he said. “The most important things are access and control.”
Jones called approval of medical marijuana a “sign of the times,” noting many states have already passed laws similar to the one Alabama is considering.
“I have not seen the particulars of the legislation yet,” Jones said. “I’m open to looking at it, considering it helps a lot of people who have various ailments.”
Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, said she also has not seen the particulars of the bill, but is generally supportive of medical cannabis.
“I’m in favor of medical marijuana passage, but it depends on what it will look like,” she said.
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