Commission’s vote on medical marijuana bill next week

Commission’s vote on medical marijuana bill next week

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A vote is expected on a final draft of medical marijuana legislation by next Friday.

Members of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Study Commission have until Monday to make any final comments on the proposal and then a vote by the 18-member body will happen via email by Dec. 20, Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, told Alabama Daily News.

Because the commission isn’t an official government body and not taking any official action, a vote via email is allowed.

Melson sponsored the medical marijuana bill that passed out of the Senate in the 2019 session. In the House, lawmakers changed the legalization bill to instead create this study commission. It’s been working since the summer on new legislation.

The draft legislation circulated in November contained stipulations for licensing dispensaries, advertisement of the drug, a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system and other regulatory measures.

Melson on Thursday said a few changes have been made, including adding the creation of a “compassion panel,” to which people can appeal if they don’t have a condition or illness specified in the bill as qualifying for medical marijuana. He used the example of sleep deprivation. It’s not outlined in the bill, but if people have been to sleep clinics and can document chronic sleep issues, they could appeal to this panel.

A current draft wasn’t available Thursday.

“As soon as we have a final draft, we’ll make it available,” Melson said. 

If approved by the commission, that draft will be introduced in the 2020 legislative session that begins Feb. 4. The proposal could be changed as it works its way through the legislative process.

During public meetings of the commission, proponents and opponents, largely law enforcement, have debated medical marijuana. 

This week, the Alabama Farmers Federation said that if medical marijuana is legalized, the state’ farmers should be the ones growing it.

Melson agreed and said he expected some Alabama grower “prioritization” in the final draft. Local production would mean more control, he said.

“I want it raised and processed in the state,” Melson said. “That’s my goal.”