Do not expect medical marijuana in Alabama

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Some other states have approved medical marijuana, and even the recreational use of marijuana, but do not expect Alabama to legalize the use of marijuana for any purpose any time soon.

Advocates for medical marijuana participate in a rally on Wednesday on the steps of the Alabama State House. (Brian Lyman/Advertiser)

Supporters of medical marijuana had their opportunity to advocate for the benefits for legalization on Wednesday after pushing for months for a hearing before the Health Committee in the Alabama House of Representatives and after bombarding members with hundreds of emails. Some of the emails shared the potential benefits for those with chronic illnesses while others chastised members for not acting or for referring to their endless emails as harassment.

But, after listening to both sides on Wednesday, House members on the committee made it clear there is little chance legislation would pass the committee, let alone the full House of Representatives.

“I certainly don’t see (medical marijuana) surviving a vote on the House floor,” said Rep. Jim McClendon, chairman of the committee. McClendon had referred to the emails from supporters as harassment.

Rep. Micky Hammon appeared more sympathetic, but explained the political reality to those in attendance at the hearing in the Joint Briefing Room on the eighth floor of the State House. He told the advocates to continue their fight, but said it was a “steep climb.”

“This will be a mighty large leap for us, to pass medical marijuana,” said Hammon, R-Decatur. He also said he did not foresee any legislation passing the committee or the House.

McClendon, R-Springville, said there was not any specific legislation before the committee on Wednesday, but said the hearing was an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons.

Those who testified before the committee supporting possible legislation said making marijuana available for palliative and therapeutic purposes often gave them a quality of life they did not otherwise enjoy on prescription drugs.

Christopher Butts, a co-president of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, said he had developed an addiction to painkillers after suffering a spinal compression injury in 1992. The addiction, he said, ruined his marriage. Consuming cannabis cookies, Butts said, has helped manage pain.

“Three cookies a day is better than three or four Oxycontins a day,” he said.

Opponents of the proposal said committee members had to think through the practical application of the law. Randall Hillman, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys’ Association, said authorizing medical marijuana meant the state would have to ensure that only medical patients get it, and would also have to authorize areas to grow marijuana. Hillman also said creating a marijuana market would invite crime into the state.

“(Mexican) cartels have ramped up their efforts in Alabama,” he said. “If you do this, you are creating the market.”

Hillman said “This is not a moral issue for us. This is a practical issue for us.”

Lt. Joe Herman with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation spoke against the legalization and pointed out that it remains illegal under federal law. He also said it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, who has proposed medical marijuana legislation in every Regular Session of the Legislature since 2008, told those at a rally prior to the hearing that they were doing “missionary work” in raising awareness of the issue.

Republican Rep. K.L. Brown of Jacksonville, who spoke about his sister’s clouded last days on morphine and who said he has seen many people suffer from prescription medication, asked his colleagues to be open-minded.

– Brian Lyman and Sebastian Kitchen

5 comments on this post.
  1. Gene Parmesan:

    went to this….a group of people trying to let their voices be heard by a room filled with old men that didnt want to hear what they had to say

    this went off more like a mixture of the proganda movie “Reefer Madness” mixed with a 5th grader’s anti-drug policy. One lady told of her family members dying in a car wreck and the driver was under the influence of marijuana. She left out what all else was shown in the toxicology report. odds are that in muscle shoals, where she is from, that alcohol or meth was also involved……..drug/alcohol related driving incidents have been reduced by 9% in states with Medicinal Marijuana after MM was allowed.

    law enforcement opponents said this after admitting he did a few minute internet search before coming in that “it is illegal federally and at the state level and that is why it should be illegal for medical use”…his fellow law enforcement agent also said that making it legal for medicinal purposes “will lead to JoJo growing it in his mobile home with aluminum foil covering the windows.” (if that isn’t a blatant disrespect to those petitioning for a better way of life then i don’t know what is)

    opponents all stated that other drugs/medicines were available to help with their illnesses. the lady with multiple sclerosis, spinal stinosis, seizures and stroke history from prattville disagreed with them. Medicinal Marijuana is the only medicine that allows her to function like a working piece of society

    opponents also stated that other FDA drugs for these illnesses are safer….oxycodone, valium, etc….pretty sure the side effects of medical marijuana doesn’t list “death” like those other FDA approved drugs.

  2. Gene Parmesan:

    also, the talk of Mexican drug cartels ramping up their connections in Alabama is hilarious. wasn’t that one of the main points that the immigration bill was supposed to help with? guess our legislators screwed that one up as well. excellent work.

  3. Gene Parmesan:

    Colorado and Washington have done extensive studies showing that the legalization in their States will REDUCE the amount of $$$$ going to the cartels. So are those studies wrong, or is the local law enforcement guy who did 15 minutes of research on Google wrong?

  4. Gene Parmesan:

    Jim McClendon made up his mind on the situation before hearing anything in that session. He gave the AMMJC people the run around for a long time while they tried to set up a meeting date. He was uninterested the entire time he was in there, and even lost his train of thought because of it. Moreover, McClendon was curt and rude about the whole thing. He should be ashamed to call himself a CIVIL SERVANT.

  5. chuckp7860:

    It is sick. It has always been known that alcohol has more deaths related to it’s usage than all the others drugs put together. I have sent e-mails to my representatives who have replied with stories of others getting into trouble, wrecks and other things under the enfluence of marijuana but always leave out alcohol was in the mix too. In fact, a lot of the times it was alcohol and nothing else. It was told to me marijuana has no medicinal purpose, is a mind altering drug and can cause harm to ones body. I return with the fact that should put alcohol in the same status since it is a mind altering drug, has no medicinal purposes, causes liver damage, has more deaths related to it’s usage each year than any other drug, you get highly addicted to it, causes more failures to marriages each year and that just starts the list of a drug that is sold in almost every grocery store , drug store and convenient store. Actually the cartel is gearing up to try and stop it’s leagalization in other states since this will bring a big hit to their price structure since with it’s legalization, it would make it much cheaper to buy and they would no longer have the sole ownership of it’s marketing of the product. They do not want it’s legalization. It’s safer to use than alcohol, no one I know of has ever overdosed on marijuana like than have with alcohol. I know of almost no one that has had traffic accidents using just marijuana, it has always had alcohol involved in the mix and it’s time to stop ruining people’s lives for using marijuana with drug related arrest and now you get a felony charge for your second offense no matter how much you had on either charge. We have too many people in jail for possesing marijuana and not enough for driving drunk and killing or injuring people.

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