A senate bill to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama, SB 46, is now heading to the governor’s desk.
The bill cleared its final hurdle in the state legislature on Thursday, when it passed out of the state House of Representatives by a vote of 68 to 34. The legislation passed out of the state Senate in February by a vote of 21 to 10.
The ball is now in Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s court. A spokesperson for Ivey said that the governor would review SB 46.
“We appreciate the debate from the Legislature on the topic,” the statement from the spokesperson said, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser. “This is certainly an emotional issue. We are sensitive to that and will give it the diligence it deserves.”
The moment has been years in the making for Alabama’s cannabis advocates. In 2019, a bill to legalize medical marijuana fizzled out in the legislature, which opted instead to create a commission to study the feasibility of the proposal.
The commission held public hearings, where the panel heard from proponents and opponents to the idea. By the end of 2019, the commission recommended that the legislature legalize medical cannabis, and offered up a draft of potential legislation. But the idea never materialized last year, leaving the door open yet again for the 2021 session.
The chair of the commission was Republican state Sen. Tim Melson, who has been at the forefront of Alabama’s efforts to get medical marijuana passed. It was Melson who introduced and sponsored the bill that passed out of the state Senate in February and in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The Details of SB 46
The bill would establish a medical marijuana program in the state. Per the Montgomery Advertiser, Melson’s legislation “would authorize the use of medical cannabis for roughly a dozen conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression; sickle-cell anemia; terminal illnesses and HIV/AIDS,” while patients “would need doctor approval to use medical marijuana, which could only be obtained from special dispensaries, and would have to purchase a medical cannabis card, costing no more than $65 a year.”
SB 46 would also forbid “smoking, vaping, or ingesting cannabis in baked goods,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser, permitting only “tablets, capsules, gelatins, or vaporized oils.”
Melson said in January that the bill he introduced was the same as the one he offered up in 2020.
“I’m not planning to change it,” Melson said at the time. “I’m looking forward to getting it introduced and seeing what happens.”
The bill split some of Melson’s fellow Republicans. GOP state Rep. Mike Ball told CNN that the policy could shift the perception that some might have of Alabama.
“It might make a statement about our compassion. It might make a statement that we’re not completely closed to everything,” Ball said. “A lot of times folks get set in their ways and it’s just hard to open your heart to something. … It just tells you that we are changing our mind about some things, it’s just a slow go.”
But another Republican state senator, Rich Wingo, told CNN that he voted no to the legislation because of concerns of how it will be consumed and sold.
“They are suggesting chewable gummy-type candy, I would rather see it in a form that is least appealing from a child’s view,” Wingo told CNN in an email. “My point is anything that is less attractive to a child, a child could possibly see these gummys [sic] (left unattended) and think they are candy or daily vitamins as example.”
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, SB 46 “requires any cannabis gummies manufactured to have one flavor.”