Alabama is one of six states where marijuana is completely illegal.
That could change this legislative session. The Alabama Senate passed legislation last year on the matter but the house never got to vote on it in the pandemic shortened session. State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) said it will likely come up soon. He sponsored the bill last session and said it is not meant for those seeking recreational highs or consumed by smoking. The bill intends for legal THC to be used only in certain medical conditions and it will not be cheap.
“The way it is prescribed is in a metal tray with Jello like substance with exact amounts of the marijuiana compound which includes THC,” Oliver said. “It is scored for each dose. Insurance will not pay for it; people will have to pay out of pocket for it. It is much more expensive than what marijauana on the streets costs. In terms of it exacerbating or becoming something to be abused, there is no chance of it. It won’t add to the drug problem.”
Legislators will get a chance to debate medical marijuana this year according to Oliver.
“Medical marijuana is going to get to the floor this year,” Oliver said. “Leadership wants to pass it.”
Oliver said the issue is nothing new for the Alabama legislature and Montgomery has plenty of other states to look to who have already legalized marijuana in various degrees.
“We have been working on this for three years,” Oliver said. “Over 30 states have medical marijuana bills.”
Oliver said the medical marijuana would not go to an average patient.
“This is something that is well thought out,” Oliver said. “Actually it is being designed so the things you can prescribe for are limited. “You can use for autism, nausea, anxiety or panic disorder, weight loss, pain from cancer, Crohn's disease, epilepsy or things causing seizures, fibromyalgia, HIV related nausea or weight loss, persistent nausea, PTSD, sleep disorders, spacity, MS, terminal illness in which life expectancy is less than 6 months, tourette syndrome, conditions causing chronic or intractable pain.
“In other words, this is something that would be prescribed for things that are disastrous where you have a life debilitating illness or end of life.”
Oliver said medical marijuana would not be available to every patient entering the doors of a medical clinic.
“The people we are describing are people who have tried everything else and not found any relief or they are terminal,” Oliver said. “This is a much better choice for a doctor to have in the arsenal. It is not the only thing and not the cure all.”
Oliver is in a group of legislators that believe medical marijuana will keep many from becoming addicted to pills.
“We really believe it will keep us from prescribing narcotics,” Oliver said. “It is also my hope.”
The bill does not allow the use of raw plant material in any product that could be smoked or nor did it allow any food products containing cannabis like cookies or candies.
“The plan right now is the gelatinous cubes because it is so easy to control the dosage,” Oliver said. “You have a month or two month supply, after you eat it, it’s gone. There is no more.”
Arguments will come up about those prescribed medical marijuana will be involved in accidents. Oliver said there are many who are already taking narcotics and going on with life. Medical marijuana is a way to keep many off narcotics but legislators will have to make sure businesses and industries are protected when employers are prescribed marijuana. In the end, medical marijuana might help with addictions to narcotics.
“People will say what about workers driving, now you have them taking opioids,” Oliver said.
“As a controlled substance, we are not worried about it adding to drug addiction and becoming an enforcement problem. It is not enough to make you high.
“We are going to address liabilities for companies who have folks on THC. Industry is comfortable with it, they just don’t want to be liable for it. In reality, would you rather have someone taking a dose that won’t make you high on THC or someone eating opioids?”