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Alabama Senate passes bill that would legalize medical marijuana; Fate uncertain in House

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Wednesday wasted no timing in passing a bill that would legalize medicinal cannabis, commonly referred to as medical marijuana, in the Yellowhammer State.

The upper chamber passed Senator Tim Melson’s (R-Florence) SB 46 in a bipartisan 20-10 vote, with two floor amendments tacked onto the legislation.

Those voting against the bill included the pro tem and the majority leader of the body.

Previous versions of the bill have passed the Senate the past two years only to stall out in the House (it was waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020). Melson — a board certified anesthesiologist — on Wednesday expressed relative optimism about SB 46’s fate this year.

“We’ve been here before,” he told reporters after the Senate vote. “We’ll just see what happens.”

“A poll shows that — I think y’all are going to be surprised by some people who are going to vote for it,” Melson added. “Because they have had that family member who needs it. Or they realized they have a friend or neighbor who needs it. And I think you’ll be surprised.”

Melson, as he has in the past, explained that he was a skeptic of medical marijuana as recently as four or five years ago.

“I started listening to patients instead of biased people,” the doctor advised. “And this is where we’re at today. … Look, I’m not a recreational marijuana [supporter]. I don’t want that in this state. I just want the patients who need it to have it.”

He also directly addressed the vocal opposition to the bill by Senator Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia), a fellow doctor.

RELATED: State Sen. Stutts still a ‘no’ on medical marijuana: ‘It’s just marijuana — they don’t say ‘medical Tylenol’ or ‘medical aspirin”

“One of my colleagues, who I respect, is hung up on the term ‘medical’ for marijuana. And that medical marijuana term he says shouldn’t exist,” Melson said. “Well, that’s OK. That’s his opinion. But if I go to Google Scholar and type in ‘medical marijuana,’ over 580,000 articles pop up just like that — in less than a second. … Look it up in Webster’s, Stedman’s Medical and some other dictionaries, there’s a definition there. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but there’s a lot of people who disagree with him. And I’m one of them.”

This article originally said the Senate vote was 21-8. This article has been updated to reflect that this vote count changed after it was announced on the floor.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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