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An Alabama Senate committee approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana on April 23, 2019, the second major victory for cannabis reform supporters in the state within the span of a week.

The legislation would allow patients 19 and older who are suffering from one of 33 conditions to qualify for medical marijuana and obtain it at licensed dispensaries. It also would establish a commission responsible for licensing cultivators, distributors, and retailers, and approving medical cannabis cards for patients.

Conditions that qualify patients for legal marijuana access include addiction, epilepsy, chronic pain, cancer, and depression.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill in a 6-2 vote, with three abstentions. It will now head to the full Senate.

“We're encouraged to see a compassionate medical cannabis bill advancing in Alabama,” Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Passing medical cannabis laws should be a no-brainer for elected officials.”

“We've had 20-plus years to see that the laws alleviate suffering and are not causing problems. And there is perhaps no political issue that enjoys such strong popular support,” she said.

Prior to the vote, committee members heard testimony from supporters and opponents, with doctors, advocates and law enforcement weighing in on the legislation.

“We need to realize tobacco is four times more addictive than cannabis,” said Jerzy Szaflaski, a researcher who has studied cannabidiol (CBD) oil. “Alcohol is two times more addictive than cannabis. They're both legalized and regulated.”

Republican state Sen. Tim Melson, chief sponsor of the legislation, offered a substitute amendment that was approved. The amendment would require patients to get a second opinion from a separate doctor before qualifying for cannabis. The senator said the purpose of the amendment was to prevent certain physicians from becoming “go-to” medical marijuana providers.

The votes come one week after the same committee unanimously approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana, making possession of 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, or less of cannabis punishable by a $250 fine with no jail time.

While many legalization supporters are watching for news from the northeast as New York and New Jersey struggle to get adult-use bills approved, there's plenty of action in the South.

Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation expanding the state's medical cannabis program on April 17, 2019. In Kentucky, a House committee also approved medical cannabis legalization in March. A Texas House committee approved a decriminalization bill, which is scheduled for a full floor vote April 25, 2019. The Texas House also voted in favor of legalizing industrial hemp on April 23.


This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

Featured image: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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