Alabama Senate passes medical cannabis bill

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The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed a medical marijuana bill that would license 34 dispensaries across the state.

The bill also would permit people with a doctor’s recommendation to use MMJ for 15 conditions.

In addition, the measure allows medical cannabis in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

Senators voted 22-11 for the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson after five hours of debate.

The legislation now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives, where its fate is uncertain.

The Senate approval was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state.

In 2013, a medical marijuana bill won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances this legislative session.

“Things have changed. We learn as we go in life and people have realized there are benefits,” Melson said before the debate.

The bill faces opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who sent lawmakers a letter noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Last year, a Senate-passed bill stalled in the House.

“We are just in a wait and see mode,” Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, a Republican, said.

– Jeff Smith and Associated Press