Legalization

Alabama House committee advances medical marijuana bill

(Getty Images / Hero Images)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A medical marijuana bill on Wednesday cleared its first major hurdle in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill after lengthy debate and multiple amendment attempts. The bill now goes to the Health Committee after House leaders decided the controversial bill must go through two committees before going to a floor vote. A version of the proposal has already passed the state Senate.

The proposal by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people with a qualifying medical condition to purchase marijuana after getting a recommendation from a doctor.

During committee debate, Republican Rep. Allen Farley, a former police officer, described how his 94-year-old mother at the end of her life entered a facility that treats people with dementia.

“This 37-year law enforcement professional, I was humbled. And if this right here can help some of these grandmothers and great grandmothers have a quality of life and not just sit there doped up in a chair, we’re going to do a great thing for the state of Alabama,” Farley said.

Under the proposal, people could get a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for more than a dozen types of conditions – including cancer, anxiety, epilepsy, menopause, a terminal illness and chronic pain. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

The bill has faced a tough road in the Alabama Legislature. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives. Committee members on Wednesday discussed the bill at length and made multiple amendment attempts.

“It was frustrating in taking this long, but hey, the process worked,” Melson said.

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