MONTGOMERY, AL — Two lawmakers in Alabama, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, have filed similar bills in the state legislature that, if passed, would allow patients to grow and possess marijuana for medical use.
On Tuesday, Rep. K.L. Brown (R-Jacksonville) filed House Bill 66, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act. The bill is backed by the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, which held a public meeting in Huntsville last Saturday to garner more awareness on the proposal.
If passed, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act, known as HB66, would let certain patients use medical marijuana to treat their symptoms under a doctor’s prescription. The bill would allow qualifying patients and designated caregivers to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana if recommended by a doctor.
“Our mission is to protect the patients of Alabama who can gain therapeutic benefit from the product,” said AMMC Co-President Christopher Butts. “This is not about getting high. Our oldest member of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition is 84 years old. I assure you that woman is not trying to get high.”
Butts said medical marijuana has overwhelming support in Alabama.
Rep Brown, the bill’s author, is a funeral home owner who says his sister used marijuana to control pain before her death from breast cancer 25 years ago. Brown said he is very much aware of the pain and fear that terminally ill patients endure as they approach death, and that current pain medications available can make it difficult for them and their families to enjoy the time they have left.
“One of the issues is the last weeks or months of a person’s life and what we can do to make that individual more comfortable with less pain and not completely wipe them out with medications where they hallucinate and don’t even know where they are or who they are,” he said. “I just feel like we need to look at an alternative to that, and I think that marijuana is an alternative.”
The bill has support from Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), who has re-introduced her failed medical marijuana initiative from last year, which would allow qualifying patients to use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana if prescribed by a physician.
Both bills would limit use of medical marijuana to certain life-altering or terminal medical conditions, like cancer, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy or anything that “substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined by in the Americans with Disabilities Act,” according to Brown’s bill.
Despite last year’s failure, Rep. Brown said he is confident he can get his bill, or a version of it, out of committee this session, but getting it on the legislative calendar will be the real challenge.
But other state lawmakers said they don’t think the bill will go very far in the next session.
“I think it would be a long shot,” said Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw).
Ron Crumpton, co-president and executive director of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, is optimistic about the legislation’s chances.
“I don’t think it will be that much of an uphill battle,” Crumpton said. “Many of the Republicans who took over the Legislature in the last election are younger guys—between 30 and 45—who don’t associate the same stigma with marijuana that older people do.”
“A lot of people are worried about me politically sponsoring a bill like this, which I’m not,” Rep. Brown said. “I believe in it strongly enough that I’m not worried about the political end of it. I just think the good outweighs the bad.”