The hearing won't specifically address House Bill 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, according to bill sponsor Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Jefferson County), who sponsors the legislation.
"I have seen a lot of people die a miserable death and some benefited from the use of marijuana," Todd said, reports Bill Britt at the Alabama Political Reporter. "I also believe that it can be very beneficial for people who suffer from cancer and migraines."
"When you are at the end of life, going through cancer treatment, or you have seizures or MS there is a proven medical benefit from the use of marijuana," Todd said, reports Alan Collins at WBRC.
|Rep. Patricia Todd: "[T]here is a proven medical benefit from the use of marijuana"|
Under HB 2, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients' Rights Act, the Alabama Public Health Department would issue cards certifying that a qualifying patient has the right to use up to 10 ounces of marijuana per month for medical reasons.
"If your child was dying of cancer and they were in extreme pain and discomfort, you do everything in your power to eliminate that," Todd said.
Ron Crumpton, co-president of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition (AMMJC), a group which advocates for medicinal cannabis patients, agreed.
"When you take into consideration the fact that in two states the citizens have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, I just find it appalling that Alabama has yet to make allowances for people who are suffering from chronic medical conditions to use this valuable medication in their treatment," Crumpton said. "Medical marijuana has been proven to treat a variety of medical ailments without the harsh side effects that many patients experience with pharmaceuticals.
|Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition Co-President Chris Butts, left, with Rep. Patricia Todd|
The House Health Committee is chaired by Rep. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who said proponents will have a chance to educate legislators about the benefits of the herb.
"Last year, more than one member of the House told us that our organization had the most effective lobbying effort of all the nonprofit organizations," said Chris Butts, co-president (along with Crumpton) of the AMMJC. "We must maintain that pressure. We must show them that last year was not just a flash in the pan, and that we are not going away."
Rep. Todd expects the bill to see opposition from some other lawmakers -- and from the law enforcement community -- but the Birmingham lawmaker said there needs to be a serious discussion about the marijuana laws in Alabama.
"We have spent billions of dollars on trying to eradicate illegal drug use," Todd said. "We have not succeeded. We have spent a lot of money on marijuana eradication but it keeps growing."
"Patients should not have to fight their government to treat their illness," Crumpton said. "Patients should not face criminal prosecution for trying to treat their ailment and patients should not be forced to go to criminals to get their medication."