Determined In Dixie: ‘Medical Marijuana By 2012 In Alabama’


Photo: Loretta Nall
Loretta Nall: “We plan to keep fighting”

​Alabama is the last state many would expect to legalize medical marijuana; after all, the Heart of Dixie isn’t exactly known for its liberal ways.

But one determined group of Southerners there exemplifies the rebel stubbornness for which the state is famous — by refusing to give up their fight for the safe, legal, medicinal use of cannabis.
The brave efforts of Alabamians for Compassionate Care (ACC), ably led by legendary libertarian and former gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall, have arguably made the state a good bet to be the first former member of the Confederacy to get a medical marijuana law.
For the past several years in a row, ACC has, against all odds, gotten a bill onto the floor of the Alabama Legislature, and 2010 is no exception. House Bill 642, the Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act is expected to come before the House Judiciary Committee later this month.
Toke of the Town got a chance to chat with Nall about the state of medical marijuana in Alabama.

Photo: Loretta Nall
How long do you think it’ll take Loretta Nall and Marc Emery to smoke all those joints?

Toke: Loretta, your organization, Alabamians for Compassionate Care, has been advocating for medical marijuana in the state for several years now. How do you see your chances in this legislative session?
Nall: 2010 is a general election year in Alabama. That generally means controversial bills, such as this one, will not pass all the way through the Legislature and become law.
We do expect to get this bill out of committee this year. We think that 2011 or 2012 will be the year that medical marijuana passes in Alabama.
Toke: This year’s bill is named after the late medical marijuana patient, Michael Phillips. Can you tell us a little about Michael and how it came about that his name is on the bill?
Nall: Michael Phillips was born with an inoperable brain tumor that caused multiple seizures on a daily basis. He had taken every seizure medication known to humankind, and a few that were not, to no avail.
Medical marijuana was the only thing on Earth that reduced the number and severity of his seizures.

Photo: Loretta Nall
Michael Phillips, far right, with members of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, including Loretta Nall (center, in black), Travis Petta (next to Phillips) and Christie O’Brien (front left).

​Michael survived four different and unsuccessful brain surgeries that resulted in major injury to his brain, causing him to have problems communicating, understanding and slowing his motor skills and coordination.
As a result of that he was never able to be independent. He never lived on his own for more than a few months, was never able to get his driver’s license, never married, and never had any children.
Michael passed away very unexpectedly while attending the 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Orleans. He was traveling with me and other members of Alabamians for Compassionate Care. It was his first extended trip away from home in 18 years.
We named the bill after Michael to honor him as a person, and because he used to say, “Y’all gonna make me famous with this medical marijuana stuff.”

Photo: Loretta Nall

​We know he is with us in spirit and is very proud that we are carrying out this work in his name.
We miss Michael very much.
Toke: There are many patients in Alabama who could benefit from the use of medical marijuana. How can supporters of medicinal cannabis help to bring about change in the state?
Nall: There are a number of things supporters of medical marijuana in Alabama can do to help get HB 642 passed.
• Contact me, Executive Director Loretta Nall, at [email protected] or by calling (256) 625-9599, or Outreach Coordinator Christie O’Brien at [email protected] or by calling (205) 907-6131.

Photo: Loretta Nall

​• Call/write/visit your member of the Alabama House of Representatives and ask for their support of the medical marijuana bill. If you are unsure who your representative is in Montgomery, go to this link, scroll down and on the left side of the page you will see a place to enter your Zip Code. That will bring up the name, address and contact number for your member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
• Talk to friends, family and co-workers about this issue. If you don’t live in Alabama, but have relatives or friends here, please let them know about the bill and ask them to join our efforts to protect patients in Alabama.
• Write letters to the editors of Alabama newspapers. The media in Alabama are very supportive of m
edical marijuana.
• Help us recruit more medical professionals and clergy for the medical marijuana cause in Alabama.
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