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Melson bringing back medical marijuana bill

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

State Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, said he’ll file in the 2021 legislative session the same medical marijuana bill that passed the Senate last March.

“I’m not planning to change it,” Melson told Alabama Daily News recently. “I’m looking forward to getting it introduced and seeing what happens.”

His 2020 bill passed the Senate 22-to-11 in mid-March, before reaction to COVID-19 shortened the session and killed dozens of bills.

The “Compassion Act” creates a nine-member Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee regulations and licensing for medical marijuana cultivators, processors and dispensaries and requires a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system for all cannabis in the state.

More than a dozen qualifying medical conditions and symptoms are listed in the bill, including post-traumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS-related nausea and cancer-related chronic pain and nausea. Patients must have the okay of approved doctors to qualify.

For a doctor to prescribe a patient to use medical marijuana, it has to be proven that all other methods of treatment are unsuccessful.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, speaks to reporters after a 2019 Senate hearing that featured his bill to legalize cannabis for medical use in Alabama.

The bill does not allow for the smoking or vaping of marijuana or edible forms of the drug. However, treatment in the form of pills, gelatinous cubes, gels, oils or creams, transdermal patches and nebulizers would be allowed.

Users would receive a state-issued medical cannabis card and an electronic patient registry would be created.

The bill allows for 34 total dispensaries in the state and mandates no more than 70 doses per patient at one time.

The marijuana would be grown in-state by farmers and the process to create the product would be conducted by Alabama businesses.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent a letter to legislators early this year saying he opposes the bill. He said marijuana is an addictive substance and drew parallels with the ongoing opioid addiction crisis. He also noted that federal law continues to ban marijuana.

A spokesman for Marshall recently said his opposition to the legislation stands.

Melson, one of two medical doctors in the Senate, said more studies continue to show the benefits of medical cannabis to treat certain diseases.

“Hopefully, we can get it passed and help some people who need it,” Melson said.

The session begins Feb. 2 and will be altered by COVID-19 precautions.

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