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Alabama law is ready to legalize medical marijuana

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama lawmakers overcame years of opposition and passed final approval of medical marijuana legislation on Thursday. This ended a long and emotional debate in which major Republican lawmakers described the change of side in favor of the proposal.

The bill now goes to Governor Kay Ivey, who is expected to legally sign it.

The House of Representatives voted 68-34 to pass the bill that would allow people with a qualified illness to purchase medical marijuana on the recommendation of a doctor. The Alabama Senate voted late Thursday to accept changes in the House of Representatives and sent the legislation to Governor Kay Ivey.

The members of the house had been skeptical

The Senate had already approved the bill last February after only 15 minutes of debate with 21 to 8 votes. But the House of Representatives had traditionally been more skeptical of medical marijuana proposals and had sent the bill through two committees before it reached the House.

Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said the governor’s office will review the bill.

“We appreciate the legislature’s debate on this issue. This is certainly an emotional problem. We are sensitive to it and will give it the care it deserves, ”Maiola said late on Thursday evening.

2013 Deadest Bill, passed in 2021

Approval came eight years after a 2013 medical marijuana bill won the House of Representatives’ Shroud Award for the “deadliest” bill of the year.

But Republican Rep. Mike Ball, who ran the bill through the House, said “hearts and minds” were slowly changing on the matter.

Ball, a former soldier and investigator, said he had also changed his attitudes towards medical marijuana and became emotional at times.

“Every year as we delay helping people who need it, there are more people and more people suffering from it. We still have about a year before this is set up and started, but at least we have hope now, ”said Ball.

More than a dozen conditions qualify

More than a dozen medical conditions, including cancer, an incurable disease, depression, epilepsy, panic disorder, and chronic pain, would allow a person to qualify. The bill would allow the marijuana in forms like pills, skin patches, and creams, but not in smoke or steam products.

Representatives voted to name the bill after the son of a state democratic representative, Laura Hall. She first introduced medical marijuana bill over a decade ago after her son Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall died of AIDS.

10 hour debate

Representatives discussed the bill for almost 10 hours on Tuesday, until lawmakers adjourned without a vote just before midnight. House lawmakers failed to meet on Wednesday and representatives approved the bill on Thursday after two hours of debate before the Senate gave final approval.

The lengthy debate in the House of Representatives brought about a passionate discussion, which also included lawmakers who expressed fierce opposition. However, others spoke of changing their minds on the matter after seeing the illnesses of family members.

“It can change the quality of life for the people we love,” said Republican MP Allen Farley, a former police officer.

Republican filibuster failed

The bill had seen an earlier filibuster by opposing Republicans who feared this could be a gateway to recreational use or that medical marijuana could get into the hands of teenagers.

“What makes us think we know more than the FDA. My other thought is what if we are wrong. What if we approve and pass this bill and it’s a gate like in Colorado? “Said Republican MP Rich Wingo of Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.

A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the Shroud Award for “Deadliest Bill” in the house.

“They laughed at me,” said former Democratic MP Patricia Todd, sponsor of the 2013 bill, on Thursday of the reaction of some Republicans at the time.

“I’m glad to see it’s over. It’s long overdue, ”said Todd.

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Beth Edmonds