Study commission to legalize medical marijuana holds first meeting

Medical marijuana study commission holds first meeting

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Some state leaders are looking at legalizing medical marijuana for people with certain medical conditions in Alabama. The Medical Cannabis Study Commission met for the first time Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, is the chair of the commission and said the goal is to safely legalize medical marijuana.

“Three years ago I would have never carried this bill,” Melson said during the meeting.

Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana, according to Melson. He wants the commission to find best practices and make sure it gets into the hands of people who need it.

The commission is comprised of physicians, pharmacists, farmers, lawmakers and district attorneys.

Dr. Steven Stokes is a licensed physician who specializes in oncology. Stokes said he has given cancer patients in Florida medical marijuana to help with pain.

Sen. Dan Roberts, who is not on the commission, voiced his concern at the meeting about other state’s who had originally legalized medical marijuana.

“It’s not long before they go to recreational,” Roberts said.

Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee is on the commission. She said she has seen the ill effects of marijuana use is still forming an opinion on the matter.

A medical marijuana bill sponsored by Sen. Melson passed the Senate but was not brought up for a vote in the House during the 2019 legislative session. Instead, the bill was watered down to set up a study commission.

Melson’s previous bill would have set up a state oversight commission and a process for prescribing marijuana for people with certain medical conditions. Melson said his bill would require those who need medical marijuana have a doctor’s recommendations and a second opinion.

The bill would have allowed for some people to grow medical marijuana in Alabama and would have created dispensaries around the state.

Paula Greene, with the Legal Division in the Legislative Services Agency, helped write the previous bill. She presented to the commission Tuesday details on Melson’s bill, what other states are doing, and what improvements need to be made.

Greene suggested some changes to the legislation which include making sure people in certain instances are not discriminated against for using medical marijuana. She also suggested the new legislation limits the total amount of product a patient can have to avoid prosecution.

Greene said the commission should have a “concrete idea” of what they want the legislation to look like so it can be filed in December.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.