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The Alabama legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would create a nationwide medical marijuana program after two historic votes and a debate in the House that lasted more than two days.

The House of Representatives voted 68 to 34 to approve the measure, sponsored by Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, despite a lengthy contest of about half a dozen dedicated opponents who delayed Tuesday’s vote on the bill. The Senate agreed to the changes to the bill late Thursday in a vote of 20 to 9.

Mike Ball’s spokesman, R-Madison, a longtime advocate of medical cannabis who worked on the bill in the House, had tears in his eyes when he spoke to reporters after the House vote.

“It’s just a happy day for me and it’s a big burden,” he said.

Gina Mayola, a spokeswoman for Governor Kay Ivey, wrote Thursday night that the governor “looks forward to a thorough review” of the bill.

“We appreciate the legislative debate on the subject,” the statement said. “It’s certainly an emotional issue. We’re sensitive to it and will give it the diligence it deserves.”

In the Montgomery County Delegation, representatives of Calvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery and Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, voted in favor of the bill. Reps. Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road, and Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, voted against.

The Tuscaloosa Delegation, represented by AJ McCampbell, D-Linden; Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa and Kyle South, R-Fayette voted in favor of the bill. Representatives Rodney Sullivan, R-Northport and Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, voted against.

In the Etowah County delegation, representatives Gil Isbell and Becky Nordgren, both R-Gadsden, voted in favor of the bill. Representative Craig Lipscomb, R-Rainbow City, voted against.

Melson’s bill will allow the use of medical cannabis for about a dozen conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression; sickle cell anemia; incurable diseases and HIV / AIDS. Patients will need a doctor’s approval to use medical marijuana, which can only be obtained from special dispensaries, and will need to purchase a medical cannabis card that costs no more than $ 65 a year.

The bill bans smoking, vaping or ingesting cannabis in baked goods. It can be consumed as tablets, capsules, gelatin or evaporated oils. The bill requires all cannabis tires produced to have one taste.

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Last month, Melson said he expected medical cannabis to be available in the state in the fall of 2022, with Ball’s assessment agreeing.

The vote reflects a major transformation of an issue that was once as popular in the legislature as Tennessee volunteers. Representative Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, noted during Thursday’s debate that she had introduced a bill on the issue more than 20 years ago in honor of her son Darren Wesley “Ato” Hall, who died of AIDS. Hall said her son was battling AZT, then a common treatment for the disease.

“I’ve always believed that there was something else he could have taken, something he could have taken, maybe he will live today,” she said.

The chamber added Hall’s son’s name to the title of the bill after an amendment by Juandalynn Givan’s representative, D-Birmingham.

Former Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, unveiled a medical marijuana bill in 2013 that won this year’s “Protection” award given to the “deadliest bill” presented in the House this session. Todd said Thursday that the passage of the Carly Act in 2014 and the Lenny Act in 2016, allowing families enrolled in a UAB study to use cannibidiol oil (CBD) for their children, opened the door to the bill.

“People didn’t understand marijuana,” Todd said. “A lot has been done since then. Obviously, the adoption of Carly’s Law opened the conversation about medical properties.”

The Senate, which approved versions of Melson’s bill in 2019 and 2020, passed the bill with little debate in February. But the process through the House was rough. The bill went through two committees instead of the usual one.

Parliament’s Judicial and Health Committees made changes to the legislation, most notably the distribution of money raised by the bill or the conditions covered, but did not affect the substance of the legislation and rejected several proposed amendments by Attorney General Steve Marshall, which Melson said would gut the legislation.

Parliament Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, put the bill on the House’s agenda on Tuesday. The bill voted on two floors with convenient boundaries and appeared to have broad support from Democrats and Republicans. But a small group of Republican lawmakers – which included Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka; Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road; Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery and Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa – filmed by the law for hours, launching numerous attacks on him.

The Philippist group claims the bill is anti-Alabama; will open the door to recreational marijuana (which the bill bans) or has been presented too quickly to the legislature. The attacks became fully widespread by the middle of the nine-hour debate, but about half a dozen lawmakers eventually delayed voting on the legislation.

After Tuesday’s vote, McCutchen said there were no serious attempts to imprison people. While House Republicans often shut down Democrats engaged in filibusters, they are reluctant to do the same with other Republicans.

The debate on Thursday on the bill lasted a relatively short two and a half hours and there was no turmoil, as it was on Tuesday. Supporters were able to change what they saw as hostile amendments, and criticized opponents’ proposals that the law would ban marijuana for recreation. Givan claims on Thursday that he had a conversation with a “weed man” on the subject.

“This bill has no effect on them and real weed smokers in Alabama,” she said.

Some Democrats said the bill should have gone further, under covered conditions; tackling inequalities in the pursuit of marijuana or controlling the price of medical cannabis. Merica Coleman’s representative, D-Birmingham, opposed an earlier move by the Home Health Commission to remove PMS and menopause from the list of conditions covered.

“I am so disappointed that we have an amendment that aims to exclude women, who are 51% of the population of this country, of this country, but not in this body.”

Mary Moore’s spokeswoman, D-Birmingham, said that poor and working people would not be able to afford medical cannabis, “just as health care for poor and working people because they cannot afford it”.

Ball acknowledged the concerns during the debate and while speaking to reporters afterwards. He said the high price was due to the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as a substance with a high risk of abuse and no known medical properties. (Federal budget amendments prevent the US Department of Justice from prosecuting government medical marijuana programs.)

“This is a starting point,” he said. “As it becomes an increasingly common part of medical practice, the cost is likely to fall.”

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Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or

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