|Photo: Loretta Nall
|Loretta Nall: “We plan to keep fighting our way through the process”
An Alabama House committee approved a bill Wednesday that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in the Heart of Dixie.
This is the first time in Alabama history that a medical marijuana bill has advanced out of committee to the House floor.
Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), who sponsors the bill, said it had no real chance of being approved by both the House and the Senate before this legislative session ends in five days, reports Scott Johnson of the Montgomery Advertiser.
The bill, known as the Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act, is named after a medical marijuana patient with a brain tumor who fought to make the herb legal for medicine in Alabama. Phillips died in 2007 at the age of 38.
Marijuana was the only thing that allowed Phillips to function normally, according to his mother, Jackie Phillips. Without it, she said, Michael had seven or eight seizures a day.
“I could see the difference in him when he smoked and when he didn’t,” Phillips said.
Under the bill, patients would be allowed to purchase and possess marijuana if they have an official identification card.
The bill would allow for the licensing of dispensaries where patients could legally buy marijuana.
Rep. Todd has been working with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who assisted her in drafting the bill.
“H.B. 642 is a great medical marijuana bill and is very similar to Marijuana Policy Project’s 2009 model bill,” said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with MPP.
“It includes a good list of serious medical conditions that research has shown marijuana helps with, and patients may possess 2.5 ounces of processed medicine and cultivate six marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility,” Mamber said.
The House Judiciary Committee made several amendments to the bill, including making the fees for marijuana ID cards high enough to cover the extra costs they said the bill would create.
Several members of the committee claimed they had concerns with the bill. Rep. Yusuf Salaam (D-Selma), said he was worried that the bill would make it possible for people to use marijuana illegally under the pretense of using it medically.
We’re still awaiting word if Rep. Salaam is planning to go door to door in his district to collect all the prescription drugs already being abused by his constituents — or if he plans to start locking up cancer patients because some people abuse pain medication.
Salaam did admit that he “did not dislike the bill enough” to try to kill it before it left the committee.