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COLUMN: Medical marijuana bill would have great impact on Alabamians

<p>A bill to legalize medical marijuana was approved in early February 2021, and is pending approval on the senate floor.&nbsp;</p>

A bill to legalize medical marijuana was approved in early February 2021, and is pending approval on the senate floor. 

On its way to potential signage by Governor Ivey, the Alabama Senate's medical marijuana bill is sure to garner much discussion and support over the next few weeks. A similar bill gained much attention and support this time last year and even passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, it had to be pushed to the side as the state government transitioned into creating coronavirus relief for millions of Alabamians.

This bill is expected to be modified as it makes its way through the Senate and House; nonetheless, several representatives are very hopeful for its potential. This bill would allow certified physicians to prescribe doses of highly regulated marijuana to qualifying patients who have had no success with other forms of treatment. 

For thousands of patients in Alabama, this must be exciting news. While researchers are trying to pass the multitude of hurdles and regulations that bar them from researching, medical marijuana has been found, in multiple medical research journals, to be an effective remedy for reducing anxiety, aide in chemotherapy side effects, aide with chronic pain, and can even assist in killing cancer cells and slow tumor growth. A small regulated dose of medical marijuana can go a long way for those who have no alternative measures to help their pain subside, especially those who endure grueling months and years of chemotherapy.

Although there are a lot of benefits that medical marijuana has to offer, many still see the use of medical marijuana as problematic. They see the passage of this bill as a precursor to legal forms of drug abuse. Critics believe legalization of medical marijuana could lead to widespread misuse of controlled substances; however, many of the opioids prescribed today are far more addictive and likely to be abused than marijuana. Not only are those strong opioids more likely to have their own black market and are highly misused, their side-effects from long term use (which is not their purpose, but is a reality for some) is substantially worse than the long-term effects of medical marijauna.

As of now, over two-thirds of state legislatures have passed similar bills, allowing for the legalization of medical marijuana. Alabama’s delay in the successful consideration of this bill comes as no surprise given the state’s history of political grandstanding; however, the progression of this bill may be an indicator that Alabama politics may be moving away from the status quo. 

If this bill makes its way to the governor’s desk, it will not only be a testament to the thousands of potential patients who have had no success with other medication, but it will also be a testament to the great potential that Alabama has. Alongside this, we can see that future bills of great debate will have a better likelihood of passing such as education, prison and infrastructure reform.  Many people would liken Alabama politics to a sitting duck who never moves, despite how turbulent the forces may be. Interestingly enough, this bill was sponsored by a Republican and has been well embraced by the Alabama Republican lawmakers — a major feat for the future direction of the party, but also one that shows that this may no longer the Republican Party of your grandparents. This bill shows that those days may be coming to an end. 

As a way to keep bills like this moving forward — or at least to be heard and debated — it is imperative that local representatives hear, embrace, and fight for these news ideas that were once off limits.

While this bill may seem like a small feat, it is surely one that will have great impact for many.

Jonathan Stuckey | Columnist

Jonathan Stuckey, sophomore majoring in political science and public relations, is a columnist for The Plainsman. 


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