Medical marijuana bill introduced

Published 5:44 pm Monday, February 17, 2020

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Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, introduced a bill Tuesday to authorize medical marijuana in Alabama, following months of study by a commission composed of doctors, legislators and lawyers.

If adopted, Alabama would become the 34th state to authorize the use of marijuana to treat medical conditions. Patients would be required to obtain a medical marijuana card from a doctor. Melson sponsored a medical marijuana bill last year that passed the Senate but failed in the House.

Instead, the legislature approved a study commission that met for the last half of 2019. That commission proposed draft legislation similar to Melson’s bill. Melson chaired the study commission.

The bill would create a seed-to-sale tracking system from cultivation to sale of final product. Doctors would have to meet certain qualifications before prescribing marijuana. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams.

Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don’t suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Florida and Louisiana have authorized medical marijuana in recent years, but most Southern states have declined to legalize its use. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has already said he opposes medical marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Melson’s bill would impose tight controls on those cultivating and selling medical marijuana. Both inventory and cardholders would be electronically tracked. Products would be taxed at a rate of 9 percent, with some of the proceeds going back toward the operation of the program. A special account would also be created for the Medical Cannabis Research Fund.

If approved, the bill would become law immediately after receiving the governor’s signature.