Alabama could join the other 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana

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FILE – This Monday, May 20, 2019, file photo, shows a marijuana leaf on a plant at a cannabis grow. Louisiana is becoming the first Deep South state to dispense medical marijuana, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access to therapeutic cannabis. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuesday, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission held its first meeting in Montgomery to both study and discuss the health benefits of marijuana.

The commission is chaired by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and made up of 15 people from the medical, law enforcement and academic fields.

The path to forming the commission was a unique one in Alabama. For years, different bills had been introduced in the Alabama Legislature to either legalize medical marijuana or to decriminalize marijuana possession. During the 2018 session, a bill was introduced by Melson that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state. However, the bill was later retooled to be about forming a commission to study the effects of medical marijuana. The updated bill was eventually passed in the spring.

If approved, Alabama would join 33 states that have already legalized marijuana for medical uses. There are only 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

Over the years, a number of states have made provisions to make marijuana available for medicinal purposes, as opposed to recreational ones. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The latest state to legalize medical marijuana was Oklahoma in 2018.

During the last year, Alabama was one of 14 states, in addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands, to have similar bills pushed in their respective legislatures. The states include Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. With the exception of the Virgin Islands and Georgia, which allowed in-state access to up to 5% THC cannabis oil, all those bills failed.

Marijuana has been illegal in Alabama since 1931 when Gov. Benjamin Miller signed a bill making it illegal to buy or sell the plant. However,

“Cannabis Indica, or Mariguana is a narcotic, it is claimed, and highly injurious,” according to an article published in the Montgomery Advertiser following passage of the law on February 12, 1931. However, cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal to purchase in the state, made possible by President Donald Trump after he signed a bill that would remove CBD from the list of federally controlled substances.

Ultimately, the commission will be tasked to come up with ideas in time for another marijuana bill to be introduced during the next legislative session in 2020. The group will have until Dec. 1 to draft the legislation.

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