By Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy and General Counsel
There is a great deal of effort going on in Montgomery to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. So much effort, in fact, that a review of the draft legislation indicates that the Republican majority may well be asked very soon to throw out every conservative principle that each of them ran on in order to “get the bill passed”. I could write for days on the draft Cannabis Commission Bill and not even talk about Marijuana. It is that bad. The people of Alabama would do well to take a lesson from Homer about the dangers of dragging a Trojan Horse in the gates.
You all know the story: legend has it that after ten years of war the Trojans believed that they had achieved final victory over their Greek enemies when the dawn light revealed a large wooden horse that had been left outside the gates of Troy. Convinced that it was a wonderful thing, an homage to the Gods left by their defeated foes, the citizens of Troy opened wide their impregnable gates and pulled it into the city. Troy sealed its own fate by bringing in that giant vessel which in actual fact contained Greek commandos who opened the gates from the inside in the dark of night and destroyed the great city from within.
The Alabama Policy Institute has reviewed two drafts of the legislation being developed by the Cannabis Study Commission. It is understood that there may be a more recent draft, but when we asked for an update we were told that the Commission would no longer allow them to be reviewed by the public. A red flag if ever there was one.
The drafts that were reviewed and are available on the API website are evidence of one of the most prolific forms of trojan horse legislation we’ve seen to date. This trojan horse bill that has been described as purely about palliative care and medicinal relief does everything wrong to allegedly try to do something right.
This trojan horse bill carries the dark forces of growing government, raising taxes, denying the right to due process, and defeating home rule, to name a few.
The legislation grows government by standing up an entire new public commission whose members will be highly compensated. The new “Cannabis Commission” will then be allowed to hire full time employees in untold numbers because the bill places no cap on the growth of the Commission.
The Commission will also have full time investigators who will operate independently of other law enforcement and are specifically given the right to search and seize Alabama citizens and their property “without a warrant”. That’s right, warrantless search and seizure is specifically written into the bill.
It doesn’t stop there. Despite the fact that Alabama does not tax prescription medications, the legislation states that medical marijuana will be taxed at nine percent by the state and up to two percent by the local government. Prescriptions have historically been left alone by taxing authorities in Alabama, but the new Cannabis Commission will tax them at over twice the amount of any other sales tax. And where will the money go? To the Cannabis Commission of course. Along with all other revenues gained from the incredibly large licensing fees and penalties that the Commission is unilaterally allowed to levy.
It just gets worse from there. Parents may have to pay the services of a licensed “Caregiver” to administer the medication to their child. Not the doctor, not the pharmacist, but the newly formed role of “Caregiver” who has been approved by the Commission.
Despite being made legal in the legislation, pharmacists will not be allowed to dispense medical cannabis because it has not been approved by the FDA. Thus communities across the state will see the new phenomenon of “Dispensaries” that will dispense medication without pharmacological oversight.
And what happens if your community doesn’t want a pot farm? The most recent draft of the legislation specifically bans the right of local communities to opt out of the marijuana farming industry. If your local leaders are concerned about the security risks of a marijuana farm they will have no say in the matter if the current version of the bill is passed.
I could keep going, but I will stop there. For now. I just typed over 700 words and never once had to discuss the efficacy of marijuana as a form of medicine. The bill being floated is so bad that legislators don’t even have to debate its ultimate aim.
They can spend all session debating its other content. It’s as if they thought of every non-conservative principle of governance and crammed them all into one bill.
To be sure, if this bill passes it will have major impacts on employers, law enforcement, farmers, insurance companies, and others. Marijuana is not FDA approved and is still considered a controlled substance illegally possessed under federal law.
But the proponents of medical marijuana are not content to go with the usual form of trial, research and approval. They want it now and are determined, according to this bill, to get it at any cost. If they would go through the established processes of amending the law at the federal level, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But of course, that would have a negative impact on their for-profit cannabis industry. Darn.
The legislature has a big job. Their role is key to the functions of our state governance. But if the State House and Senate pass this trojan horse bill, it will truly be said that the legislature went to pot.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, is a former State Senator from Gadsden. For updates, follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams and visit alabamapolicy.org.