MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama attorney general is opposing medical marijuana legislation expected to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.
In a Jan. 6 letter to lawmakers, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called marijuana an addictive substance and drew parallels with the ongoing opioid addiction crisis. He also noted federal law continues to ban marijuana. His letter says in part:
'"As with opioids, medical marijuana is often advertised for short-term use or for the terminally ill, yet data from across the country demonstrates that it is disproportionately `prescribed` for chronic pain - a condition that leads to long-term, even lifelong, treatment."
A state study commission has recommended a medical marijuana proposal for the session that begins next month. The commission was created after legislation failed last year. [Read the commission's recommendations here]
The Alabama Senate approved a medical marijuana bill in 2019, but the legislation stalled in the Alabama House of Representatives.
Speaker Mac McCutcheon says he understands the concerns.
"That's why we went with a commission approach last year. To get a group of people to come together... doctors, professional law enforcement, public safety, to come together ... see where we need to go. And out of that, the commission did vote on a draft piece of legislation which we're still working on," McCutcheon said.
The commission recommended a regulatory framework and strict controls. The commission said the legislation's objectives include:
- Prevent abuse by individuals seeking marijuana products but who are not genuinely in need of therapeutic relief from a medical condition
- Ensure that physicians receive proper training and require a physician to have established a bona fide relationship with a patient before recommending medical cannabis
- Determine which medical conditions should qualify a patient for medical cannabis use based on rigorous medical studies indicating therapeutic benefit of the conditions or symptoms of the conditions
McCutcheon said the legislature will take up the issue.
"We're going to put the bill out there. We're going to see what kind of amendments could be made, which might make the bill more appeasing, but at the end of the day, it's going to have to go through the process," McCutcheon said.
Overall, the vote was 12-3 in favor of the medical cannabis report. Five doctors on the panel, including the bill's sponsor, Senator Tim Melson of Florence, supported the recommendations. Dr. Scott Harris, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Health opposed them.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says more than 30 states have approved some form of medical marijuana program.