5 months ago

State Rep. Ball: One less thing

The Medical Cannabis Study Commission will soon hold its first official meeting in its quest to determine the best course for implementing practical and effective access to medicinal cannabis for Alabamians with medical needs.

There are probably more than a few skeptics who view the formation of this committee as just another attempt by Alabama politicians to avoid dealing with a hot-button issue for as long as possible. Given our history, skepticism is certainly justified, but I believe the circumstances surrounding the establishment of this commission clearly indicate that it is a deviation from the expected norm. This commission was constituted to determine how we should make medical cannabis available to those who need it, not if we should.

The formation of this commission represents the culmination of a journey that began for me in October 2013 with a late-night email from a desperate grandmother. The opening line of the email, which read, “I am asking for your support of Alabama Medical Marijuana,” almost resulted in its deletion.

At the time, I was committed to the mistaken notion that cannabis had no medicinal value, especially since my law enforcement career had placed me on the frontline of the decades-long war being waged against this misunderstood plant. Fortunately, being more investigator than politician caused me to read the entire email. Grief overtook my soul as I looked into the blank stare in the eyes of the baby girl in the attached photograph, taken on her first birthday. It awakened sleeping memories of other children that I’d been unable to help throughout the years.

As a grandfather, I empathized with the plight of this family willing to allow a glimmer of faith turn them into refugees rather than cower helplessly in fear as they watched the mind of this little girl being decimated by as many as 100 daily seizures. The email ended with a moral imperative: “Please help us if you can!!”

Although I believed that medical marijuana was a non-starter in the Alabama legislature, common decency dictated that I at least investigate the matter enough to fashion a reasonable response to what seemed to be an unreasonable request. Although my mind seemed set, this desperate grandmother deserved to know why I wasn’t planning to support Alabama Medical Marijuana.

An investigator’s thought process operates like a rotating cement mixer. Opinions within it are shaped and re-shaped by new evidence as it is acquired and tossed into the mix of ideas and theories stirring about. Thirst for truth supplies the impetus that keeps an investigator’s mind turning, with refreshing new discoveries acting like water keeping the conceptual mixture from setting up too soon.

Truth seeks those willing to humble themselves enough to recognize that they never know as much as they think they know and are not afraid to rethink their opinions. Those who think they know everything are incapable of learning much of anything, but those who assess themselves honestly and allow their opinions to be shaped and reshaped as they continue to think through new evidence are rewarded with refreshing drinks from the Fountain of Truth.

For days and weeks following that desperate plea, I was unable to find a legitimate reason to avoid facing the issue, unless one considers political expediency a legitimate reason. It created a moral dilemma just as candidate qualifying for the contentious 2014 legislative election season drew near. At first glance, it seemed the best choice was to avoid the issue until after the election, but that would require me to ignore the moral imperative to do what we can to ease the suffering of the helpless whenever we can. Political expediency could not justify a year of unnecessary suffering.

The decision to ignore political expediency and introduce Carly’s Law in 2014, decriminalizing possession of low-THC CBD oil, was neither noble nor courageous. It was simply a decision based upon avoiding what I feared most. I knew myself well enough to know that the potential political consequences associated with following my conscience paled in comparison to the spiritual turmoil associated with ignoring it.

I’ve learned much about medical cannabis since the introduction of Carly’s Law in 2014. I’ve learned that the nearly 50-year-old decision to classify cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic with no medicinal value was based more on politics and fear than medical evidence. Since that fateful decision was made, much effort has been expended in what seemed to be more about yielding to political fear than finding the truth about the therapeutic and palliative potential of this plant. It is difficult to assess the number of people that could have been helped had a more rational approach toward cannabis had been taken by President Nixon’s administration in the early 1970s.

Why so many for so long have neglected to question such a questionable decision is bewildering. One doesn’t have to be a scientist to recognize that had a more sensible approach toward cannabis been taken, its therapeutic and palliative qualities could have been utilized to allow innumerable patients to receive relief from pain and other neurological symptoms caused by numerous afflictions, including cancer and epileptic seizures.

I shudder to think of those who could have benefited from cannabis for treatment of pain who have become addicted to opioids and died directly or indirectly as a result.

The needless suffering of past victims caused by this tragic political overreaction cannot be undone, but I am hopeful that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission will move expeditiously to provide the legislature a clear path for toward allowing access for those who could benefit from the therapeutic qualities of cannabis.

The true success of their endeavor cannot be measured by a poll. The only measure that matters is the degree to which those who suffer can find a better life. Our meager efforts thus far have resulted in Carly’s Law and Leni’s Law and have already helped many, including the family that emailed me 6 years ago. Thanks to medical cannabis, the little girl whose plight captured my heart has just turned 7 and is now virtually seizure-free, sometimes going months without a seizure.

The formation of this commission promises to help many others who suffer many other maladies. Regardless, the commission has already benefited me. My load is considerably lighter since the moral obligation placed on my shoulders by a grandmother’s emailed plea is on their shoulders now.

As the moral genius Forrest Gump would say, “That’s good. One less thang.”

State Rep. Mike Ball is a retired major crimes investigator for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2002. He chairs both the Ethics and Campaign Finance and Madison County Legislation committees and holds seats on the Judiciary and State Government committees, as well.

10 hours ago

Ivey visits hometown Camden to commemorate bicentennial — ‘Y’all, Alabama has come a long way’

CAMDEN — On Friday, on the eve of the culmination of Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration set to take place in Montgomery, Gov. Kay Ivey paid a visit to her hometown to take part in an event marking the milestone in her home county of Wilcox.

Not far from where Ivey attended high school as part of Wilcox County High School’s class of 1963, the governor participated in a ceremony that also included Camden Mayor Bill Creswell and Wilcox County Commissioner Bill Albritton.

After offering a list of the state’s achievements, Ivey remarked on how far Alabama had come.


“During these 200 years, Alabama has celebrated some pretty incredible people and milestones,” she said. “Building a rocket that took a man to the moon, our rich Native American history and culture, becoming the birthplace for civil rights, and becoming an international market for goods and products. Y’all, Alabama has come a long way.”

She also noted that the events leading up to the bicentennial celebration kicked almost immediately after she assumed the role governor in 2017 and led her to make at least one visit in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

While speaking to the press at the return to her hometown, Ivey expressed how great she felt about being back in her hometown and what her goals were as the state heads into its third century.

“We’re proud to be here in Wilcox County and in my hometown of Camden to celebrate the bicentennial of Wilcox County, and tomorrow we’ll celebrate the bicentennial of Alabama. It is sure great to be home,” Ivey stated.

“Certainly, we want to keep the economy going, keep the everybody working, get more people that are not working to work,” she continued. “We just want to make the quality of life in our state really good, so everybody has an opportunity to be and do what they want to do.”

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Ivey also offered some words of advice for her hometown and county in the pursuit of a better quality of life.

“Y’all just make this place an attractive place to live and do business, have a strong education system so people can put their children in schools, then in touch with the Department of Commerce to get prospects to look us over,” she said.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

11 hours ago

Three Crimson Tide players, Auburn’s Derrick Brown named Walter Camp All-Americans

University of Alabama football players Xavier McKinney, Jaylen Waddle and Jedrick Wills, Jr. have been named to the Walter Camp All-America second-team, while Auburn University’s Derrick Brown made the first-team.

McKinney is a safety, Waddle is a wide receiver selected to the team as a returner on special teams, Wills is an offensive tackle and Brown is a defensive tackle.

The Walter Camp Foundation announced the honors Thursday evening at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show.


McKinney, a junior, ranked 12th in the SEC in tackles with 85 through 12 games. He was also the Crimson Tide leader in tackles this season, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. He forced four fumbles and added three interceptions to go with five pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. The star defensive back also returned one of his interceptions for an 81-yard touchdown.

Waddle led the nation in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return with 19 for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77. The sophomore also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one score and added more than 53 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout this season. Earlier this week, he was selected as a first team All-American at returner by Pro Football Focus and named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Wills anchored an offensive line that has surrendered only 12 sacks in 381 pass attempts this season. He graded out at over 91% for the Tide along the front allowing only one sack all season and only 3.5 quarterback hurries while missing only seven assignments in 714 snaps for a success rate of 99.9%.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by both the conference coaches and The Associated Press.

This is the 130th edition of the Walter Camp All-America team, the nation’s oldest such team.

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

11 hours ago

Marshall applauds federal court ruling that plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s minimum wage law lack standing

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State of Alabama on Friday, saying that the plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s 2016 minimum wage law lacked standing to file their racial discrimination claim against the Alabama Attorney General.

The law being challenged holds that no Alabama municipality can raise its minimum wage higher than the state of Alabama’s minimum wage. The law was enacted by the state legislature after Birmingham attempted to raise the minimum wage paid by businesses in the city to $10.1o per hour. The minimum wage in Alabama is $7.25 an hour. Twenty-two states have similar laws to the one on Alabama’s books.


In response to Alabama’s new law, the plaintiffs in question from Friday’s ruling filed a civil rights action in federal court arguing the law perpetuated white supremacy and violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Notably, the court did not rule on whether the equal protection claim had merit, but rather ruled that the suit was wrongfully being brought because their alleged damages were not “fairly traceable” to conduct by the AG.

“I am pleased with the 11th Circuit’s ruling today, which agreed with the State of Alabama that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue the Attorney General over their complaints about Alabama’s minimum wage law,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall.  “I also think the substance of the plaintiffs’ challenge lacked merit, but the court withheld judgment on that question because the plaintiffs failed to show that the Attorney General ever harmed them.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

12 hours ago

Black Belt Workforce Center opens in Demopolis

Private and public officials gathered in Demopolis Friday to announce the opening of the Black Belt Workforce Center.

The center will provide training for job seekers and employers, job application assistance, resume help and a computer lab. The center will also provide retraining and retooling for job seekers who were previously in the workforce but need help competing for the jobs available today.

“We knew that we needed to serve some of our most critical areas in Alabama by creating a center in the Black Belt. This is a place for both job hunters and employers to find resources to help them succeed,” said West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones.


The center is a collaboration between West Alabama Works, the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC), Central Alabama Works, and numerous governmental and nonprofit stakeholders in the area. It will be helmed by Tammi Holley.

The center is very close to the Alabama Department of Labor’s facility in the area, a department with which the training center plans to work in concert.

Jim Page is the CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, which houses West Alabama Works.

He told Yellowhammer, “Even though Alabama has got a very strong economy right now and we’ve got record low unemployment, there are still far too many people who are unemployed or underemployed.”

“A major reason for that is the lack of education, lack of training, and lack of certain skill sets needed to compete for jobs, or to get a better job. We’ve long felt it important to go into our more rural areas, particularly the black belt, to make the resources more readily available closer to the people, and meet them where they are,” Page added.

Unique among workforce development initiatives in Alabama is the partnership with a local drug prevention organization: The Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE). The Tuscaloosa-based PRIDE plans to work with the center to help increase drug prevention efforts in the surrounding community.

“One of the biggest problems that workforce development has is keeping kids where they can pass a drug screening,” Derrick Osborne, the Executive Director of PRIDE told Yellowhammer on the phone.

According to Osborne, PRIDE is “trying to help people understand addiction before they become addicted.”

He added, “We want to say, you don’t have to use a drug because you feel like there isn’t anywhere for you to go. There is hope, there are things to look forward to in your life.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

13 hours ago

Watch: Alabamians line up with American flags to welcome slain Naval ensign home

As seen in a video posted on Twitter, people lined the streets of Enterprise on Friday to welcome home Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.

Watson, a 23-year-old Coffee County native who also spent many of his formative years in Blount County, was killed in last week’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The hero’s body arrived at Dothan Regional Airport on Friday and then a procession took him to Searcy Funeral Home in Enterprise.

Considering Fort Rucker’s presence, the area has a high percentage of military families, making Watson’s murder that much harder on the Wiregrass community. People lined the procession route with American flags, honoring his service, sacrifice and life.


A public memorial service for Watson will take place at the Enterprise High School Performing Arts Center at 11:00 a.m. next Saturday, December 21.

Burial will be the following day at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags to half-staff on that day of internment: Sunday, December 22.

RELATED: How the hometown of a NAS Pensacola shooting hero is paying tribute to one of their own

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