Medical marijuana bill heads to committee vote

State / Regional

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill is headed to its first vote in the Alabama Legislature as advocates hope to gain legislative traction after years of setbacks in Montgomery.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the legislation Wednesday morning and could vote the same day. The bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for certain conditions, including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain, and to purchase cannabis products at a dispensary licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

The bill would allow marijuana only in forms such as pills, gelatinous cubes, skin patches and gels and creams. It would not allow products consumed by smoking or vaping. It would also not allow so-called edibles where the marijuana is baked into cookies, candies or other food items.

Supporters expressed cautious optimism ahead of the committee after years of little headway in Montgomery. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall opposes this year’s legislation.

Melson estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 people in Alabama would have a qualifying condition that would allow them to be prescribed medical marijuana from a physician. Qualifying patients would be given a medical cannabis card and buy the products at a licensed dispensary. The bill allows up to 34 dispensaries in the state, he said.

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