The Alabama Senate passed a bill that would legalize the production, sale and use of cannabis for medical purposes. And it only took the senators 15 minutes to debate and approve the measure.

After being approved in a 21-10 vote, the bill – SB46 – now makes its way to the Alabama House of Representatives. If the proposed legislation is as successful there, then all it would take is Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature for it to become law.

Under the bill’s provisions, doctors would be allowed to recommend medical marijuana for around a dozen conditions. These are:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea (and weight loss due to cancer or HIV treatments)
  • Chronic pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Menopause or premenstrual pains
  • Ssleep disorders
  • Spasticity associated with certain diseases and spinal cord injuries
  • Terminal illnesses
  • Tourette’s syndrome

Upon receiving a doctor’s recommendation, qualifying patients could then apply for a medical cannabis identification card from state authorities. The authority in question would be the state Medical Cannabis Commission (MCC), which would be established after the bill’s passage into law.

The MCC would also be responsible for issuing licenses to all medical cannabis businesses, from cultivators, processors and distributors through to lab test sites. The commission would also be tasked with maintaining a seed-to-sale tracking system to keep on top of the flow of cannabis products.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Tim Melson (R), takes a restrictive view on permissible marijuana products, only allowing oral tablets and tinctures, topicals, patches, lozenges, liquid inhalers and suppositories. Smokables and edibles are not authorized under SB46.

“I was skeptical five years ago,” said Melson, a medical researcher and anesthesiologist. “I started listening to patients instead of the biased people, and this is where we’re at today.”

The latest passage of a medical cannabis bill in the Alabama Senate marks the third one to get approval. The last one in March 2019 was also introduced by Melson and this year’s effort is more or less the same. While stiff opposition is expected in the House once again, Melson thinks it’ll be third time lucky, given the strong polling in favor of medical marijuana in Alabama and the experiences of more lawmakers who now understand the benefits.

“They had that family member that needs it,” Melson said. “Or they realize they have a friend or neighbor that needs it.”

Sen. Larry Stutts (R), is also a doctor but isn’t convinced by claims regarding marijuana’s therapeutic value and has voted against medical cannabis legislation three times now.

“First, there’s no such thing as medical marijuana. It’s just marijuana,” Stutts said. “From a medical aspect it’s just marijuana. And we have a process for products, for drugs, for medications to be approved, and we’re bypassing that entire process.”

Stutts then claimed conditions such as sleep disorders and chronic pain are too broad, with the result being an increase in the supply of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“Anybody that wanted marijuana could get a cannabis card and can qualify for one of these medical conditions and get it,” he said. “So, it’s a backdoor way of saying we’re going to increase the availability of marijuana.”

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