A 15-member commission has been appointed to study the effects of medicinal marijuana in Alabama after Gov. Kay Ivey signed SB 235 into law.

The new commission will consult with doctors specializing in neurology, pain management, oncology, and psychiatry to examine the pros and cons of legalizing medicinal cannabis. It will shape a medical marijuana bill that is set to be introduced in next year’s legislative session.

Sponsor Sen. Tim Melson introduced a bill in the hopes of empowering doctors to prescribe cannabis for a range of qualifying conditions: epilepsy, cancer, degenerative or pervasive neurological disorders, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscle disorders, opioid addiction, pain syndromes, and PTSD.

His bill passed the Senate in a 17-6 vote on May 27, with time running out in the legislative session, and it moved to the House. Yet it faced staunch opposition there and stalled.

The establishment of this committee is a compromise measure designed by Melson, who is keen to make Alabama the 34th state to allow medicinal marijuana.

One of its tasks will be to devise an application form that people would fill out to gain a medical marijuana card. It will also explore how best to set up a patient register.

Ivey will appoint three members of the panel, one of whom must be a physician with a licence to practice medicine in Alabama. The Lieutenant Governor, the Senate President, the House Speaker and the Attorney General will also appoint members, as will the Drug Education Council. No representatives from the cannabis industry will be allowed on the panel.

Its first meeting will take place next month. During its investigation, it will have to hold a minimum of three public hearings to speak to patients that may benefit from the use of medical cannabis, plus anyone in the state that has concerns about it.

The commission will also examine federal laws and the situation in other states, before making recommendations to the legislature on how best a medicinal cannabis industry should be rolled out across Alabama.

It will report its findings and create draft legislation by Dec. 1, 2019.

The bill also renews Carly’s Law, which allows a minority of patients to access CBD oil via a study at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.