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Senate passes medical marijuana bill

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state passed the Alabama Senate on Thursday.

The senate passed the bill 22-11, and the bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The bill is sponsored by Florence Sen. Tim Melson and essentially creates a framework to regulate medical marijuana from cultivation to production to treatment of patients.

Local Senator Jimmy Holley voted against the bill.

Melson, is a medical researcher and anesthesiologist, and has said he believes research shows that medical marijuana can help those who cannot get relief from conventional medicine.

There are still opponents of the bill, some of whom argue that federally, the drug is still illegal.

“The State Committee of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Public Health do not support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, except through the normal U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process,” said State Health Officer Scott Harris. “Sound medical research is the basis for modern medical care, and the currently available data on marijuana is incomplete or absent for most clinical indications. While it is recognized that clinical research on a Schedule I substance may be challenging to perform, this is not an acceptable reason to circumvent the FDA approval process.”

Tuscumbia Sen. Larry Stutts, who is also an OB/GYN, was against it citing that the bill avoided drug approval process, which is standard.

“We’re bypassing basically all of that,” he said. “We’re calling something a medicine that as a physician, I can’t write a prescription for it. A pharmacist can’t fill it. A drug store can’t stock it.”

The bill passed by the Senate allows doctors to receive training and recommend medical cannabis for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety and panic disorder;
  • Autism;
  • Nausea, pain and weight loss from cancer;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • epilepsy or other seizure causing conditions;
  • fibromyalgia;
  • HIV-related nausea or weight loss;
  • persistent nausea;
  • PTSD;
  • sleep disorders;
  • Tourette’s syndrome;
  • a terminal illness with life expectancy of six months or less;
  • Menopause;
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome

Additionally, a person 19 years or older looking to use medical cannabis would need a physician to certify that they have one of the qualifying conditions. Those 18 or younger would need a parent to administer cannabis. The patient would have to apply for a medical cannabis card and would cost no more than $65.