Currently, there are 33 states where cannabis is legal for medicinal use and a handful, like Alabama, that are finally taking a serious look at the issue. In 2018, Senator Tim Melson introduced legislation that would have legalized medical marijuana for a total of 12 conditions. While the measure passed in the Senate, the House rejected it and in the end they settled on creating a Medical Marijuana Commission to study medical marijuana before drafting future legislation.
“The purpose is to discuss and flesh out medical cannabis in a way that we can come up with a bill that can provide medical cannabis to those who need it and keep it out of the hands of those who don’t,” Senator Tim Melson said at the start of the meeting on Tuesday.
This week, that 15-member panel held their first of three meetings. The commission is made up of representatives from healthcare, law enforcement, drug addiction treatment, agriculture, and pharmacy, among others. In this first meeting, the panel heard testimony from advocates of medical marijuana, like Cynthia Atkinson, whose husband suffers from Parkinson’s and found relief through medical marijuana patches in Colorado. They also heard from doctors, such as Dr. Steven Stokes, a panel member who recommends medical marijuana in his Florida medical practice.
“My entire career has been prosecuting marijuana cases,” said District Attorney Jill Lee, who is president of the Alabama District Attorneys Association. “We’re in a different day and I recognize that medical marijuana has its place and its purpose. I just want to make sure that proper controls are in place so that there’s no harm.”
Conditions that they are exploring include those passed by the Senate in the previous legislation – epilepsy, cancer, degenerative or pervasive neurological disorders, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscle disorders, opioid addiction, pain syndromes/ pain associated with other medical conditions, and PTSD.
“It’s just another drug or treatment that we can use to benefit people,” Dr. Steven Stokes said. “I’m glad that Alabama is being so progressive. I’m surprised, to be honest.”
The Medical Marijuana Commission is required to hold three public meetings before submitting their report and proposed legislation before the December 1st deadline. After that, legislation will be considered in the 2020 legislative session that begins in February. Hopefully by having these panel meeting, hearing from patients and doctors firsthand and being provided an in-depth report and revised legislation will give the next version of a medical marijuana bill a better chance at being passed in the conservative state.