State legislature to hash out Marijuana and Hemp Act
To put it bluntly, marijuana saved Christopher Butts' life.
It rescued him from narcotic addiction, revitalized his life and relieved him from pain, Butts said.
"And honestly, I'm never going back," Butts said.
Ron Crumpton is the author of House Bill 550, also called the Marijuana and Hemp Reform Act of 2013. He used the bills recently passed in Colorado as a template.
Crumpton, executive director of the Alabama Safe Access Project, said his organization's main concern is for the patients, but extends to personal usages and to opening hemp agriculture.
Since the Supreme Court decided legalization of marijuana is a state's right issue, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition has worked to pass legislation that could protect the patients of Alabama who can benefit from the medical use of marijuana, according to Butts the president of AMMC.
This bill covers personal use of marijuana for users over the age of 21 years old, medical usage for "certain qualifying patients" and the regulation of hemp.
Patricia Todd (D-Jefferson) is the bill's sponsor. She has been working for years to get medical marijuana legalized in Alabama.
The bill allows personal use, personal possession is limited to less than an ounce and the uses of hemp range from Ford Model-T, which was going to be made with a hemp composite frame to a fiberglass-like substance to be used in construction to paper and clothes. Hemp can also produce as much as six-times more biodiesel per acre than an acre of corn.
"These products are nothing new, it was just something taken away from us out of ignorance and it's time to give it back to the people," Crumpton said. "It's medicine, has a ton of agricultural uses and some people enjoy it recreationally. It's safer than alcohol, cigarettes and aspirin."
Todd has experienced first-hand how marijuana can eliminate pain and increase quality of life in AIDS patients.
"People use it casually," Todd said. "Some people go home and have a glass of wine; some people go home and just light up a joint."
According to Crumpton the bill would bring in revenue for the general fund and 5,000 jobs.
"When you look at what other states are doing there is actually this whole entrepreneur network that's developing around legalization," Todd said. "It's going to happen and these entrepreneurs are out front looking at distribution centers, paraphernalia and that sort of thing."
Patients rights is the prominent concern for the AMMC and ASAP.
"The cannabis plant has been a medicine in almost every culture on this planet for thousands and thousands of years," Butts said. "It was us, the United States and our infinite wisdom that made it illegal."
The bill has been filed in the Public Service and Homeland Security Committee of the state government. Todd said in her experience most legislators understand the medical benefit, but they're afraid that voters wouldn't understand and think they are soft on drugs.
Representative E. Richard Drake (R- Jefferson, St. Clair) said his vote would be "No."
"I have not seen any proof that it helps in any way and I have a concern about the control," Drake said.
Drake serves on the Public Service and Homeland Security Committee and doesn't see the estimated 5,000 jobs this bill predicts.
"I have no idea where they got that information," Drake said.
Drake said he gets upward of 35 emails a day.
"I don't think they have a chance. I really don't, not in my opinion," Drake said. "Of course I've got one vote, I can't speak for the rest of the committee, but I just don't think they're going to pass. "
Supporters believe it may take time.
"Alabama is so conservative that it's not going to happen over night, but it's never going to happen if we don't start the conversation," Butts said.
Crumpton is now working on a bill to decriminalize marijuana. The penalty would be the equivalent of a traffic citation with a maximum fine of $100.
Crumpton said that in his experience most police officers believe they have more important things to do than "harassing people with weed, and that's real common place."
Crumpton said savings will also be found in decriminalization. He said that it would resolve prison overcrowding and save money throughout the entire judicial process.
The law states that upon the first offense, if less than two ounces, is as a misdemeanor then the second infarction is a felony and is punishable up to jail time.
"We're going to do something," Crumpton said. "We're going to make progress in Alabama."