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Alabama Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana

After Alabama lawmakers overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana, the bill is headed for the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey.

WVTM

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama, with bipartisan backing, is closer to becoming law than ever before.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 68-34 after about two and a half hours of debate Thursday morning, reports AL.com. Republicans in the House voted for medical marijuana 42-34. All 26 House Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, the sponsor of SB 34, asked the Senate to concur with the House changes. The Senate agreed on a 20-9 vote Thursday night, reports WSFA. The bill is now headed for the desk of Governor Kay Ivey, who could sign it into law.

A filibuster from about half a dozen GOP lawmakers on Wednesday held up a vote on the bill, but it was passed by the House Thursday morning.

Gov. Ivey’s office wouldn’t commit to her signing the bill. “As with any piece of legislation that reaches the governor’s desk, we look forward to thoroughly reviewing it,” Gov. Ivey’s spokesperson, Gina Maiola, said on Thursday. “We appreciate the debate from the Legislature on the topic. This is certainly an emotional issue. We are sensitive to that and will give it the diligence it deserves.”

Medical Cannabis is overwhelmingly supported by both doctors in Alabama (70 percent of whom are in favor) and the general public (75% support).

Mike Ball Alabama House medical marijuana handshake Montgomery Advertiser
Rep. Mike Ball, House sponsor of the bill, got emotional after its passage. Photo: Montgomery Advertiser

Tears of Happiness

Former state trooper and state investigator Mike Ball wiped tears from his face after passage of the bill, reports Mike Cason at AL.com. Rep. Ball talked about how he came to support medicinal Cannabis and how minds have changed in the House. Just eight years ago, the House gave medical marijuana legislation the dreaded Shroud Award as the “deadest bill” of the year.

“This is just a happy day for me and a great burden has been lifted,” Ball said.

Ball said legislators tended to associate marijuana with Cheech and Chong. That comedy duo — with an act centered around getting high — rose to fame in the 1970s.

“I knew that there was so much preconceived notion and bias about this issue,” Ball said. “And when people think of marijuana they thought of ‘Cheech and Chong.’ And so, I knew that people, in order to understand what this is about, they needed to see the people.”

The Bad News: No Smoking; No Flowers; No Growing

This is certainly progress and a time for celebration (pending, of course, Gov. Ivey’s signature). But the bill, unfortunately, has glaring weaknesses which must be pointed out.

The most glaring deficits of the bill are that it allows neither any form of smoking, nor any Cannabis flowers. Patients are not allowed to grow their own medicine.

The bill would authorize the use of medical Cannabis for roughly a dozen conditions. These include cancer, chronic pain, depression; autism; sickle-cell anemia; terminal illnesses and HIV/AIDS.

Patients need doctor approval to use medical marijuana under the bill. State-licensed dispensaries are the only legal source of marijuana. Patients would have to purchase a medical Cannabis card, costing no more than $65 a year. 

The bill forbids smoking, vaping, or ingesting cannabis in baked goods. Consumption of cannabis in tablet capsule, gelatin, or vaporized oil form is permissible. Rather oddly, the bill requires any cannabis gummies manufactured to have one flavor. This is supposedly to reduce the appeal of gummies to kids.