MONTGOMERY, AL. 24 April, 2015 — “I don’t like to paint Alabama in the dark ages,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton in the wake of a short-lived victory after his bill, SB 336 (the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act), advanced on Wednesday through the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote along party lines. A day later the bill is dead, instead of heading to the senate floor. The full membership of the Senate will not even be given a chance to debate it.
Rules Committee chairman Sen. Jabo Waggoner pulled the plug, saying, “It is bad legislation. We don’t need that in Alabama.” According to the senator, a 49-year veteran of the state Legislature, Alabama isn’t ready for legislation that would allow a broad range of seriously ill patients to buy medical marijuana. If the legislation were passed, patients suffering from any of the 25 conditions listed would be allowed to purchase their medicine from regulated dispensaries and collectives, or obtain a license to grow their own cannabis. (The bill placed limits on how many dispensaries could operate in a community.)
A Wednesday morning rally was held outside the Alabama State House in support of the compassionate reform many feel is long overdue. Several people had hoped to talk about their illnesses and explain why cannabis offers their only hope for relief. However, a public hearing was cancelled at the last minute.
Sen. Singleton acknowledges that medical marijuana is still a sensitive issue in Alabama, but said the “climate is right” for this legislation. “This is not about a smoke-fest. This is about trying to help people. I’m not trying to be the next Colorado.”
Polling in the state shows voter support at between 60-75% in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Alabama lawmakers passed a CBD-specific measure, Carly’s Law, in 2014 after children with severe seizure disorders protested at the State House.
During a visit to the Senate floor today, former senator and gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith told reporters that he would likely vote for medical marijuana if he were still in the senate and he suspected most physicians supported the use of medical marijuana, at least for a limited number of chronic illnesses. A retired oncologist, Griffith said he has seen cancer patients who can’t eat benefit from using cannabis.
“Right now it is an emotional discussion (in Alabama),” he said. “It is not based on reason. Those kinds of discussions rarely go anywhere.”
Sen. Waggoner says he will look at the legislation next year and the year after, but he doesn’t think anything would change his mind on it this year.