The Alabama Senate has voted 22-11 in favour of legalizing medical marijuana tablets, topicals, and edibles in the state.
SB 165 would create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which would have the power to register patients and oversee the licensing process for businesses. It would pave the way for up to 32 dispensaries to open across the state.
The state would take a 9% tax on sales, and some of that revenue would go towards research grants. Senators also stressed the need for Alabama farmers to benefit from legalization, and they made several amendments to help ensure that would be the case.
Another amendment from senate minority leader Bobby Singleton requires between 20% and 25% of cannabis businesses in the state to be minority-owned.
The bill does not permit smoking or vaping cannabis, but other delivery methods like topicals would be allowed in the program. The bill would allow patients to purchase 70 days’ worth of cannabis at a time.
Qualifying conditions would include epilepsy, cancer, Crohn’s disease, nausea related to HIV and AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A late amendment from Sen. Vivian Davis Figures successfully added menopause and postmenstrual syndrome to the list of conditions.
Sponsor Sen. Tim Melson, a Republican from Florence, thanked colleagues for not holding up the process unnecessarily after the debate. “There could have been more of an organized effort to slow it down, and I appreciate the body not doing that,” said Melson.
He said the senate has addressed some serious issues, calling it “a big step” for Alabama, but warned there is still a long way to go. Next the bill goes to the House of Representatives, where medical marijuana legalization measures have come unstuck in the past.
In neighbouring Mississippi, voters will have to consider two separate marijuana bills when they go to the polls in November.
The Mississippi senate voted on Thursday to approve a cannabis question that would create a restricted industry. It will run alongside a separate question added to the ballot by pro-marijuana activists.
The question added by the advocates would usher in a much more open medical marijuana sector, with 22 qualifying conditions and an allowance of 2.5 ounces per patient during a 14-day period. The resolution passed by lawmakers on Thursday is more restrictive, and advocates have billed the impending battle as “the people versus the legislature”.
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