Medical cannabis approved by Alabama senate judiciary committee

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A bill that would allow for limited legal medical marijuana sales in Alabama was advanced by state lawmakers earlier this week.

The bill was advanced in a 6-2 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee following a public hearing. The bill will now be decided upon by the Alabama Senate.

If the bill passes, it would create a medical cannabis commission for cultivating, processing and establishing a licensing program for dispensaries that would depend on demand. The program would also include a registry system for patients to be issued medical cannabis cards. The bill would cap the THC content at 3 percent.  

Those opposed to the bill, including Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force, have concerns about safety if medical cannabis is made legal in the conservative state.

“We feel as though there is some social norming that has taken place with the use of marijuana and we want to be very clear the stance that law enforcement takes is that marijuana is not a safe drug,” said Hammac. “It is a drug and it’s highly addictive."

Those for the bill, however, recognize the benefits that have been realized by medical patients in states where cannabis has been made legal and believe it’s time for Alabama to follow suit. Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, a neurology professor at UAB who has studied the effects of CBD oil spoke in favor of the bill during the hearing.

“There is potential for a cannabis to be helpful in many conditions,” said Szaflarski. “We need to explore that. At this point we are very limited by the laws and having a law that is more permissive will allow us to try it in patients who have various conditions where it may work that currently have no access to cannabis products.”

Szaflarski added that along with being able to help with epilepsy, cannabis or cannabis-based products can help with several other issues including multiple sclerosis and pain associated with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“There’s a lot of evidence that it will help muscle spasms. A lot of evidence that it helps pain. Patients with fibromyalgia report a much better symptom relief than using the standard prescription medications. There are multiple other conditions.”

Alabama isn’t the only state to move toward expanding their medical cannabis programs. Last month, a Kentucky House Committee approved a medical cannabis program and Georgia’s governor signed a bill to expand their medical program this month. A House committee in Texas has approved a decriminalization bill, and the House voted ‘yes’ to legalizing industrial hemp earlier this week.

“We need to realize tobacco is four times more addictive that cannabis,” said Szaflaski. “Alcohol is two times more addictive than cannabis. They’re both legalized and regulated.”

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