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Medical marijuana bill advanced by first of two House committees

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee advanced Alabama’s closely watched medical marijuana bill on Wednesday after multiple hours of discussion and numerous amendments.

The bill, SB 46, passed the Alabama Senate in the third week of February. The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), is bringing a medical marijuana bill for the third year in a row.

SB 46 now heads to the House Health Committee. While it is unusual for a bill to undergo two committee hearings in one chamber, Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has maintained that the extra scrutiny is appropriate for an issue as sensitive as medical marijuana.

On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee ultimately approved 10 amendments to SB 46. Reps. Ben Robbins (R-Sylacauga) and David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) each respectively sponsored a number of amendments.

Melson said after the committee adjourned that he largely appreciated their efforts, especially those designed to increase transparency.

The committee meeting included an emotional moment from Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla). The representative, who spent decades in law enforcement before his election, detailed that in the recent past he had to care for his elderly mother as she fell into ill health. He relayed that his mother eventually needed to be placed in a memory care unit before passing away.

Farley said he supported the bill because he believed medicinal cannabis might be able to improve the lives of Alabama’s senior citizens by lessening the pain that people like his mother are forced to endure.

“I really appreciated Representative Farley making those comments. The whole vision changes when you’ve got a family member that you’ve experienced problems with,” Melson told reporters.

All votes on the bill and its amendments in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday were conducted via voice, making an exact appraisal of which members voted in favor impossible. Yellowhammer News was able to discern that at least two members of the committee voted against approving the bill.

“There are some individuals you saw today that are supportive that probably surprised you,” noted Melson about the committee, which is primarily composed of lawyers and former law enforcement officials.

Going forward, Melson told reporters that he feels his legislation has “got a good chance” to advance through the Health Committee, where he expects the bill will get a hearing next week.

With regards to the bill’s fate after that, he said, “[W]e’ll just see what happens.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.