Legalize marijuana in state?

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Opp may seem like an unlikely place for a group working to get medical use of marijuana legalized to meet, but that’s exactly what happened Sunday.

“Why Opp?”

“Why not,” Christopher Butts, the 42-year-old co-president and board chair of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition said.

“We had 12 to 14 people come by, and we’re talking to a reporter. Nobody knows about us, so we have to go where we can.”

Like Butts, 44-year-old Ron Crumpton uses marijuana to alleviate chronic pain. He suffers spinal stenosis because of injuries he received while serving in the U.S. Navy. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) prescribed for his pain caused the perforation of his ulcers, and he subsequently had a portion of his stomach removed.

Crumpton, who is co-president and executive director of the group, last year shared his story in Montgomery. He no longer uses NSAIDs, but instead uses marijuana to treat his pain, he said. It’s safer, and has been used medicinally dating back, to 800 B.C., he said, adding that the botanical was only outlawed in the last century.

Unlike the NSAIDs, he jokes, “the only side effects of marijuana are a desire for a bag of Oreos and a gallon of milk.”

Neither man is advocating legalizing marijuana in Alabama for anything other than medical use. Last year, they got a bill introduced in the Alabama Legislature, but it never came out of committee. Crumpton was in Montgomery every day of the session, talking to legislators and garnering support. Both he and Butts said they listened to issues legislators had with the bill and changed 12 pages of the 27-page bill to accommodate them.

They’ve been well-received everywhere they’ve been, Butts said.

“People expect pink hair and nose rings,” he said. “Most of the people who sign our letters of support are much older. Our oldest dues-paying member is an 85-year-old lady from Jefferson County.”

They tell stories about supporters who have put their lives in danger to get marijuana for a loved one suffering from cancer. Many of their supporters are older Alabamians who have witnessed the effects of disease.

“Our bill would end that,” Butts said. “It would exempt those being treated and their caregivers from arrest and prosecution for the possession of marijuana.”

Crumpton said the bill lists different classifications or levels of use. For a less-serious health problem, the dosage could be up to 2.5 ounces per month. For the most, the dosage would be as high as 10 ounces per month.

“Legislators actually like the higher doses,” Butts said. “It’s healthier if used in cooking. For many legislators, smoking it is the sticking point.”

He should know. His primary usage is not smoking it, but using it in cooking, he said.

“Smoking has its place because the effect is immediate. In food, it doesn’t cause the appetite that smoking it can,” Butts said.

To those who criticize him, he points out that he can get legally high any time he wants, thanks to the opioid pain medications that have been prescribed to him. But he’s been addicted to those before, and the addiction cost him a marriage and a job. He’s not going back, he said.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow patients legal access to medical marijuana. The issue is on the Nov. 6 ballot in Arkansas, where supporters collected almost 200,000 signatures and used the state’s initiative and referendum to get it there. Initiative and referendum allows non-legislators to get issues on the ballot without legislative support if they can prove they have the support of voters.

Many patients suffering with HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer and chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other debilitating illnesses find that marijuana provides relief from their symptoms. It also has lower dependency rates than drugs like morphine and methamphetamine, which can be legally administered to patients.

Butts and Crumpton want Alabama patients to have the same access as those in other states. They point out that, in the states where medical marijuana is legal, even the Veterans Administration provides it to patients.

The two are seeking support for their organization and in writing letters and emails to members of the legislature. More information is available at The group also has a Facebook page.