Marijuana activists and patients across Alabama can be heard screaming, “The South will rise again,” after what could have been the most comprehensive plan to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes in the southern part of the nation appears to be awaiting its death in the state legislature.
Earlier this week, it seemed as though state lawmakers were prepared to stand in support of Senate Bill 326, otherwise known as the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act, when it was nearly given unanimous approval by the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote earned the proposal a ticket to the Senate floor. However, Senator Jabo Waggoner, who oversees the Rules Committee, has since dragged the bill to the legislative gallows where it will be hanged.
This is because he, alone, does not believe Alabama is ready for legislation that would allow the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana for patients suffering from a multitude of serious health conditions. Waggoner, who has been a part of the Alabama Legislature for nearly 50 years, told reporters that he does not intend to even schedule such a bill for debate—not this year, not next.
“It is bad legislation,” he told AL.com. “We don’t need that in Alabama.”
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Bobby Singleton, never seemed to have much confidence that the bill would make it out of the state legislature alive, but he said it would be great to, at least, see it hit the Senate floor in order to open up a discussion on the issue and give him a chance to plead his case. Singleton, along with many other state lawmakers, believe the time has come to follow in the footsteps of 23 other states and the District of Columbia that have already given the green light for medicinal cannabis.
The Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act is the most impressive piece of legislation the South has seen in regards to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program. It would have allowed patients suffering from 25 qualified conditions to receive as much as 10 ounces of the herb each month. Physicians would have been given the authority to assess the severity of a patient’s illness and then prescribe an amount he or she felt was substantial enough to properly treat the condition. Even the lowest of the three projected patient classes would have allowed the purchase of 2.5 ounces each month.
Additionally, the proposal went to bat for those suffering from chronic physical and mental health conditions, which limit a patient’s ability to do one or more activities, including, but not limited to, concentrating, learning and communicating as listed in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Essentially, any patient without the ability to function in society could have leaned on medical marijuana for relief rather than anti-psychotics and other popular pharmaceutical drugs.
Despite what the naysayers might believe, Senator Singleton claimed he is not attempting to lay the groundwork to become the next Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal and readily available at hundreds of retail outlets across the state.
“This is not about a smoke-fest,” he said. “This is about trying to help people.”
Last year, Alabama lawmakers put their seal of approval on Carly’s Law, which gives patients suffering from seizure disorders the ability to defend themselves in court if they happen to get busted with non-intoxicating CBD oil. This measure, which was signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley, does not entail provisions that allow for cultivation or distribution.