Last Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill allowing cannabis to be recommended for up to 15 conditions for medicinal purposes.
SB165, informally named the Compassion Act and sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, M.D., would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis for conditions such as cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It would also let patients with state-issued cannabis cards to purchase cannabis products at licensed dispensaries. Cannabis products dispensed to patients would be under strict state regulation from seed to sale, including testing products for consistency and to ensure no contamination.
Under Melson’s bill, medical cannabis would available to anyone 19 years or older whom a physician certifies as having a qualifying medical condition. Patients 18 or younger would need a parent or guardian to administer cannabis. The patient would have to apply for a medical cannabis card, which would cost no more than $65.
Cannabis will only be available in encapsulated form or a topical agent. The bill would also establish a fund using tax proceedings for increased research on cannabis.
Having passed the Judiciary Committee 8-1, the legislation will now receive a vote before the entire Senate. Should it pass the Senate, it still must go to through a committee and floor vote in the House.
After surveying its members, the Medical Association found Alabama physicians believe if cannabis for medicinal use is legalized, then the growth, cultivation and sale of cannabis should be highly regulated by the state, and any physician involvement should be regulated not by some new state agency, but by the Board of Medical Examiners. Likewise, the survey found physicians believe any administration or use of legalized medical cannabis should be limited to encapsulated form and topical agents.
While there was no overwhelming consensus found regarding physicians’ support or opposition to the legalization of medicinal cannabis, the Medical Association has worked tirelessly with the bill sponsor to bring the legislation in line with the areas of broad agreement in our member survey. We appreciate the willingness of Sen. Melson in working with us and will continue monitoring the bill as it moves forward.