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May 6, 2021

Alabama House to debate medical marijuana bill

Medical marijuana legislation is headed to a key, and potentially close, vote in the Alabama House of Representatives as proponents try to get a program approved after years of setbacks.

Representatives on Tuesday evening will debate the bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson of Florence that would allow people with a qualifying medical condition to purchase marijuana after getting a recommendation from a doctor. More than a dozen conditions, including cancer, a terminal illness and chronic pain, would allow a person to qualify.

The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon made a last-minute request to add the bill to the House debate calendar for the day. The Rules Committee, which sets the agenda, approved the request. McCutcheon last month said that he expected a close vote on the bill.

Melson has expressed optimism that the bill will win approval. However, some Republicans objected to the bill being added to the evening’s debate agenda on short notice.

“Don’t ever doubt it, if the state of Alabama gets into the marijuana business, the cannabis business, it will change the very fabric of who we are as a state,” said Republican Rep. Jim Carnes of Vestavia Hills.

The Alabama Senate in February approved the bill by a 21-8 vote after 15 minutes of debate. However, the House of Representatives has traditionally been more skeptical of medical marijuana proposals and required the bill to go through two committees before coming to the floor.

A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

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