Republicans have a super-majority in the Alabama Legislature, but the medical marijuana bill managed to pass today with a Democratic majority.
The favorable report was likely achieved because Republican senators Arthur Orr, Greg Reed and Tom Whatley didn’t attend the meeting. Sen. Greg Albritton, a Republican, abstained.
Democratic senators Linda Coleman, Vivian Figures, Rodger Smitherman and Singleton voted in favor. Republican senators Cam Ward, who serves as committee chairman, Phil Williams and Larry Stutts voted against.
Singleton, D-Greensboro, said he lobbied hard to get the committee to approve the bill. He said he will continue to work hard to get lawmakers to put the bill on the calendar and heard on the Senate floor.
To do that, though, Singleton admitted he is considering substituting the current bill for a constitutional amendment, which would require a public election.
Singleton thinks Republican lawmakers will be more likely to pass the Legislation if it leaves the decision ultimately up to the voting public.
Ron Crumpton, a medical marijuana advocate who drafted the legislation, said “he is as happy as he can be” about today’s approval.
“I don’t we would be anywhere on it if it wasn’t for Sen. Singleton,” he said.
This is the first time Singleton has carried the bill, and the first time members of the Senate have been able to consider a medical marijuana bill.
Previous legislation sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, failed to make it out of House Judicial Committee.
This year’s legislation would allow for patients who suffer from 25-specific conditions to purchase a maximum of 10-ounces of medical marijuana per month from a dispensary.
Marijuana would be taxed at 2.5 percent; that sales tax revenue would go to sheriff or police departments to combat drug trafficking.
Certain patients would also be allowed to grow up to 16 plants of marijuana under the legislation.
Physicians would be required to perform a full examination on a patient before issuing a prescription card for medical marijuana, Singleton said. They would face penalties if they don’t, he said.
Prescription cards would cost $100, and the state would recognize cards from other states.
“We have been demonizing marijuana for so long, but we are hearing that it can have medical benefits, Singleton told committee members.
“We have people in the audience in chronic pain who find this is one of the better treatments for them,” he said later of medical marijuana.
Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden, said he couldn’t support a marijuana bill because he has seen the impact of drug abuse. Teenagers he has worked with used marijuana as a gateway drug.
Singleton said he understands the concerns that Williams and other lawmakers may have about the bill. He said medical marijuana is for the treatment of certain chronic conditions; there are safeguards in place to keep it out of the hands of children.