Ashleigh Crouch, Correspondent
The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1, with one member abstaining, to advance the ‘Compassion Act’ to the Senate, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Alabama.
The committee heard from four opponents and four proponents of medical marijuana prior to voting.
Last year, a Medical Cannabis Study Commission was established by the legislature to explore the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana. The commission was made up of doctors and lawyers who held a series of meetings before voting 12-3 to recommend medical marijuana.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Tim Melson, an anesthesiologist, stated that while in the past he would have been against the legalization of medical marijuana, he now believes it could benefit an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 qualified patients in the state.
If the bill is passed, Alabama would then become the 34th state to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana. The bill would not permit the use of medical marijuana in the form of smokable or vaping products, but it would allow for marijuana in the form of pills, creams, skin patches, gelatinous cubes and certain types of edibles.
The bill would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for several conditions, including anxiety, autism, cancer-related cachexia, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia and nausea.
Patients who suffer from conditions that do not qualify for medical marijuana under the bill will be able to appeal for special consideration.
In recent years, the use of medical marijuana has been legalized in Florida and Louisiana, but the majority of Southern states have not yet followed suit.
Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Marshall wrote in a January 6 letter to lawmakers that he believes marijuana is addictive and compared it to the ongoing opioid crisis.
A similar bill was passed in the Alabama Senate last year, but still faces opposition in the House of Representatives. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh stated that he believes the bill “continues to have strong support here.”
If passed, the bill would immediately become law after being signed by the governor. That bill can be read here.