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Medical marijuana commission approves draft bill

The Alabama Medical Marijuana Study Commission has approved draft legislation lawmakers will debate in the 2020 session.

The 18-member commission that has been working to develop legislation since the summer on Friday voted via e-mail to move it forward. The vote was 12 ayes, three nays and three abstentions, Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, told Alabama Daily News.

“I think that’s pretty good,” Melson said about the final vote. 

A final copy of the draft legislation was not made available on Friday. He said the commission will first send a final report and draft legislation to the speaker of the house and the Senate president pro tem.

Melson declined to say who on the commission voted “no.” 

“I don’t want anyone being harassed,” he said. “It will be in the final report.”

Because the commission isn’t an official government body and not taking any official action, a vote via email is allowed.

Melson sponsored the medical marijuana bill that passed out of the Senate in the 2019 session. In the House, lawmakers changed the legalization bill to instead create this study commission.

Melson will sponsor the new bill in the Senate, but some changes are possible before then, he said.  The commission was making changes to the draft as recently as last week.

“There will be a little tweaking, nothing major,” he said. “I’m sure between now and then, we may see some logistical issues we as a commission didn’t think of, but businessmen and farmers may think of.”

Melson has said he wants cannabis products allowed under the legislation grown in Alabama.

The draft legislation circulated in November contained stipulations for licensing dispensaries, advertisement of the drug, a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system and other regulatory measures.

Melson last week said a “compassion panel” would be added to the bill,  to which people can appeal if they don’t have a condition or illness specified in the bill as qualifying for medical marijuana. 

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said he may sponsor the bill in the House.

“It doesn’t matter whose names on it, as long as it gets done,” he said. 

Opposition to any medical marijuana bill, including from law enforcement, is expected.

The legislative session begins Feb. 4.

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