When a state Senate bill to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama was met with stiff resistance in the state Assembly, a compromise was reached to create a panel to study the matter further and recommend a way forward for the state. That legislative panel voted last week to proceed with legalization in a move that has been lauded by marijuana advocates.
The Medical Cannabis Study Commission is made up of 18 members and 12 of them voted in favor of medical marijuana legalization. Three abstained and the other three members voted against legalization.
The report of the panel indicates that the members of the Commission presented and debated various issues connected to the use of medical marijuana. While some medical research on the therapeutic use of marijuana was inclusive, the members found strong evidence that the substance was helpful to people suffering from a number of health challenges.
In their draft legalization bill, the panel recommends that the state forms an 11-member Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to license cannabis businesses and track the industry “from seed to sale.”
The panel also recommends that the state supports research into the medical benefits of cannabis and also puts resources towards finding ways to make the legal medical marijuana industry as inclusive as possible.
Sen. Tim Melson (R), a long-time marijuana advocate who was the chair of the study commission, revealed that the Friday vote shows that the draft bill formulated is a well-thought out document that addresses the crucial issues connected to a regulated medical marijuana industry.
Melson is an anesthesiologist and medical researcher who spearheaded the Senate bill that was passed in May last year. He admitted that at one time, he was strongly opposed to the legalization of marijuana for any purpose. However, when he took a rational look at the available research, he changed his mind and became a strong advocate of medical marijuana.
For that reason, he appealed to other legislators to set their biases aside and evaluate the existing literature before forming an opinion on marijuana.
While advocates are happy with the findings of the commission, they are concerned that the draft bill is too restrictive in its current form. For example, it bans smokable forms of marijuana and gives employers the liberty to fire or refuse to hire an employee based on that employee’s use of medical marijuana.
The list of qualifying conditions is also shorter than what is typical in other states where medical marijuana is legal.
Alabama’s legislature will resume business on April 4 and the bill will come up for discussion. Experts believe that marijuana companies like VPR Brands LP (OTCQB: VPRB) and Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQX: PLPRF) will be hoping that the lawmakers modify the bill and customize it to the needs of the people of Alabama.
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