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Committee hears feedback on medical marijuana proposal 

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Sen. Tim Melson’s medical marijuana legislation but did not vote on it.

Melson, R-Florence, explained the bill to committee members and touched on some of the more controversial parts of the proposal, like the list of qualifying illnesses which he says are specific to reduce abuse.

“By having those list of conditions, we know there’s literature to back that, and shows that it helps those,” Melson said.

The legislation currently allows for 17 conditions, including cancer, anxiety, epilepsy, menopause, a terminal illness and chronic pain, after other pain remedies have been exhausted. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

One speaker supporting the legislation was Amanda Taylor, who said she had to leave the state in order to find the proper medical treatment for multiple illnesses.

“It is not right for Alabamians to not see the compassion that other states are doing,” Taylor said. “Thirty-six states have said yes to medical cannabis. I stand up and tell you that every day of my life I work a more than full-time job, I fight six debilitating diseases and I am a productive member of this society.”

A speaker against the bill was Phil Williams, chief policy officer for Alabama Policy Institute and a former state senator. He didn’t raise objections to the bill on medical grounds, reserving those for the later Health Committee debate, but because the legislation would grow government, place a burdensome 9% sales tax on the product and violates free-market principles, among other things.

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who has previously sponsored other medical marijuana legislation, said the bill is meant to help patients collaborate with their doctors on finding best treatment methods.

“What we’re trying to do here is expand it to help a lot more different people for doctors in different types of practices,” Ball said.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said he thinks the arguments concerning medical marijuana are similar to the arguments that were made a couple of years ago over allowing cannabidiol usage in the state.

“I look at this as an opportunity for families to take care of their children and their families,” England said. “The only way we’re going to get comfortable with it is to study it and put it in controllable circumstances.”

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Hill, R-Moody, said the bill would be voted on next week. If it passes it will then go to the House Health committee.

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