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Alabama Republicans Block Vote On Legalizing Medical Marijuana

The votes were there to pass Alabama’s medical marijuana bill. But a few Republicans were having none of it.

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Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives blocked a vote Tuesday night on a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax medical marijuana in the state. The last-ditch filibustering took place as the votes were there to pass the bill.

The House debated for more than nine hours, reports AL.com. The reason was filibustering by a handful of conservative GOP House members. They offered seemingly endless descriptions of supposedly hellish conditions in Colorado after recreational legalization there. The Alabama bill, by way of contrast, specifically prohibits recreational legalization.

Procedural votes on the bill passed by wide margins. But the final vote never came Tuesday night.

“It’s frustrating to see that a few stubborn people can block the process.”

Alabama Rep. Mike Ball

”It’s frustrating to see that a few stubborn people can block the process,” said Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. Ball spent roughly eight hours in the well of the House arguing for the bill, reports The Montgomery Advertiser. “But that’s the process we have.”

SB 46 would create a system to regulate the production and use of medical Cannabis products. It would cover everything from cultivation of the plants to the sales of products at Alabama dispensaries.

Carns Blocks Progress

Prominent among the filibustering Republicans was the execrable Jim Carns, a Republican from the overwhelmingly white Birmingham suburb of Vestavia. Carns sponsored bills to restrict voting rights after the 2020 election, and he doesn’t like weed, either.

He led a group of as few as half a dozen and perhaps as many as 10 GOP representatives. These numbers were according to Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman. The Alabama Political Reporter estimated the panicked, weed-phobic Republicans numbered as many 20.

They will return at 8 a.m. Thursday. Presumably, medical marijuana will be taken back up as “unfinished business.”

“I hope and pray that we take up where we’re at and we stay with this until we get an up or down vote,” said Rep. Ball, the House sponsor of the bill. “And I think you can see from the votes so far that there is a huge amount of support in this body, bipartisan support.”

The House will return to the medical marijuana bill Thursday morning, said Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia. McCutcheon said he expects there will be a vote Thursday.

Alabama GOP: Talk, Talk, Talk

The final vote on medical marijuana in the Heart of Dixie never came Tuesday night. That’s because a handful of GOP lawmakers made repeated filibustering trips to the mic to delay it. McCutcheon said there was not enough support to pass a petition for cloture, which would have cut off the debate.

The Republican majority has used cloture petitions to end Democratic filibusters during this session, but in this case would have been shutting off a filibuster by fellow Republicans. They’ve, however, shown little inclination to use the more against members of their own party.

This placed House Republicans — a majority of whom support the bill — in the odd position of being overruled by half a dozen or so of their more conservative colleagues.

The bill did clear a procedural motion necessary for the debate to continue. That vote was 69-31. Another procedural vote passed 71-20. The debate continued after that until the House adjourned at midnight.

Closer Than Ever

Still, the medical marijuana bill is closer than it has ever come before to becoming law. It has passed the Senate three times but has still never come up for a vote in the Alabama House.

Doctors could recommend medical marijuana for more than a dozen symptoms and conditions. Included in the bill are chronic pain, nausea and weight loss from cancer, seizure disorders, PTSD, muscle spasms from certain diseases, autism, and others conditions.

The bill is by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, a physician and medical researcher. Nelson said the 69-31 procedural vote was a strong sign that the House would pass the bill. With the Alabama GOP seemingly being controlled by its most extreme elements, that remains to be seen.