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Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Passes in Senate but Faces Challenges in House

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Earlier last week, major players in the cannabis industry in Alabama were elated to hear that the state Senate passed legislation that allows for the trade and consumption of medical marijuana. Sponsored by Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, this legislation comes after the state previously restricted the sale and consumption of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. SB 165 will now move on to the House where it has slightly more opposition, as Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R) has been noncommittal, stating to reporters that he is in “wait and see mode.”

Access to Medical Marijuana

While speaking to the press after his sponsored bill was passed, Senator Melson stated that he firmly believes that medical cannabis is capable of bringing relief to pain, anxiety, and other forms of mental ailments. The Senator further revealed that he worked on this legislation for over a year and during that time, he addressed the concerns of various groups in the state. 

To further show how this will benefit the people of Alabama, Senator Tim Melson had this to say; "this (cannabis) will be grown by the people of Alabama, will be dispensed by the people of Alabama, and will be specifically for the patients in Alabama". Melson further stated, "it is not about getting high, it is about getting well". 

Medical Marijuana Legislation 

This Cannabis Bill received a total of 33 votes - 11 "nays" and  "22 yays". The act dubbed the "Compassion Act" creates room for a nine-member Medical Cannabis Commission to supervise licensing and regulation for medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, and processors. 

To be prescribed medical cannabis, patients must have symptoms and conditions like autism spectrum disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), chronic pain, nausea, Crohn's disease, and other AIDS-related nausea. These patients will need to get approval from a qualified doctor. 

According to the bill, before a doctor prescribes cannabis as a treatment to any of the medical conditions mentioned above, there has to be substantial proof that other methods of treatment were unsuccessful. 

Amendments to SB 165

During the final floor discussion of the Cannabis Bill, a number of amendments were made to it. The first amendment came from the bill's sponsor Senator Tim Melson and it required the Cannabis Commission (to be inaugurated) to set standards and rules on how dispensary employees will be trained. 

While there is no cap to the volume of THC that should be prescribed, Senator Melson suggests that the THC cap level be 75 mg. Most of the senators tried to amend the THC level to 50 mg but their amendments were immediately defeated. 

According to the bill, patients will need to own state-issued cannabis medical cards and also have their details stored in the electronic patient registry before they can purchase cannabis. A total of thirty-four (34) dispensaries would be opened in the state but not more than 70 doses will be given to patients at once.

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