One Republican lawmaker in Alabama is re-upping his efforts to bring medical cannabis to his state.
Groundhog Day may have fallen on Tuesday, but the effort likely still feels quite familiar to Melson.
After all, it was a year ago when the GOP legislator put up a bill to legalize medical cannabis in Alabama, something that has been done in nearly 40 other states. That proposal sought to establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, a regulatory panel that would have overseen a patient registry system, while also issuing medical marijuana cards for patients and licenses for prospective dispensaries, among other duties.
Under Melson’s bill, qualifying conditions for a medical cannabis prescription would have included anxiety or panic disorder, autism, cancer-related cachexia, nausea or vomiting, weight loss or chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS.
Melson, a doctor, had likewise proposed a similar medical marijuana bill in 2019 as well.
The proposed legislation passed out of the Judiciary Committee last year, before gaining approval by the full state Senate.
“There could have been more of an organized effort to slow it down, and I appreciate the body not doing that,” Melson said following the vote in the senate. “We tried to address some very serious things. I’m not taking this bill lightly. It’s a big step for Alabama, and there’s still a long way to go.”
But unfortunately for Melson and other advocates, the bill ultimately went up in smoke when the legislative session was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Second Chance At Success?
According to WAAY, Melson’s latest proposal will now head once again to the state Senate for a vote. The station reported that the new bill would also “establish an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.”
In January, Melson told the Alabama Daily News that this year’s proposal would be the same as last year’s.
“I’m not planning to change it,” Melson said. “I’m looking forward to getting it introduced and seeing what happens.”
The campaign for medical cannabis has been a long time coming for Melson. Prior to bringing forward his proposed legislation last year, Melson served as the chair of Alabama’s Medical Cannabis Study Commission, which sought to examine the prospect of bringing medical marijuana to the state. The commission conducted a number of public meetings throughout 2019, hearing testimony from advocates and opponents alike.
At the end of 2019, the commission produced a report saying that a majority of its members had voted to recommend medical marijuana legislation, while also urging any new law to consider reducing or eliminating “abuse by individuals not truly in need” along with any “unlawful diversion of cannabis products.”
Other recommendations by the panel included ensuring “that law enforcement agencies can continue to enforce the state’s drug laws,” while also providing “measures to increase diversity in the ownership of medical cannabis businesses and to ensure women, minorities, and veteran-owned businesses are not discriminated against and have equal access to business opportunities.” The commission voted to recommend by a margin of 12-6.