MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The move to legalize marijuana for medical purposes is farther along in the legislative process than it’s ever been.
The House Health Committee approved the measure Thursday morning after considering the arguments made on both sides of the issue in a public hearing the day before.
The bill would make marijuana legal medical treatment for about 10 different medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, autism and epilepsy. The health committee passed an amendment Wednesday that removed menopause and PMS as conditions covered in the bill.
“I just want to get to the patients that need it. I want to see people get relief. I want to see I’m not have to leave the state to try something that worked for them,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence. “If it’s done properly, which this bill has been set up to do, I think it’s going to have a lot of options for both patients and physicians. Again, it’s not going to be their first choice of treatment, but if you’ve tried everything else, and this is an option for that particular disease or illness, I think it’ll be out there and people willing to try it.”
Sen. Melson, an anesthesiologist who’s spent three years researching and developing the bill, said this could help as many as 200,000 people in Alabama.
Those against the move presented their cases for killing it to the House Health Committee Wednesday.
“SB 46 is not compassion. This current bill is a business plan designed as a health care bill. And it is full with inaccuracies, faulty knowledge base, bad policies that will increase risk of health and public safety,” said Christine Carr, a nurse anesthetist, “While it places profit before the patient, the result, a dangerous bill that is anti-science, anti-medicine, anti patient and anti compassion.”
Pediatrician Dr. Marsha Raulerson added her argument against marijuana use, saying “It’s addictive. According to the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, one in 10 marijuana users becomes addicted. That number rises to one in six if they start using before age 18.”
Melson agreed with much of the medical community’s expressed concerns and believes the speakers in the hearing misunderstood the intent of the bill.
“It’s going to be for the special needs child and not the average child. Unfortunately, we have a population out there, very small, that I think deserve this option,” the senator said Thursday after the committee approved the bill.
Laura Liveoak also explained in the public hearing how she lost her daughter in a car wreck.
“She was killed by an impaired driver. The young man that hit her was underage and was under the influence. Why should we make a drug that has already caused so much tragedy legal?”
Melson stressed the difference between medical use and recreational use.
“It’s not like if you get a medical cannabis card and take low dose cannabis for your ailment, you’re going to lay around in a catatonic vegetative state being worthless in society, you’re going to still be able to get out and function,” he said.
“It’s not paid by insurance, you got to get registered, you got to be in a database. Legitimate people or very few will, in my opinion, go to get this and through the hassle and through the payment when they just want to get an illegal buzz or euphoria out of the product. They’re just going to go where they’re getting it now,” Melson added.
SB46 requires a doctor to sign off that the patient has a condition that qualifies under the law. And patients would be required to hold a special card saying they are clear to use marijuana for medical purposes. That card could cost as much as $65.
The bill also creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee how marijuana is grown, One version of the measure has already passed the Senate.
One version of the measure has already passed the Senate.