An Alabama State Senate committee has approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The legislation would allow patients 19 and older who are suffering from one of 33 conditions to qualify for medical marijuana.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, then voted to approve the bill.
The bill by Melson, who is a physician, would create a Medical Cannabis Commission, which would issue the cards and also licenses for the cultivation, production and sales of medical marijuana.
Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski is a professor of neurology at the University of Alabama Birmingham and supports legalizing marijuana. He said cannabis products are less harmful than other products for the treatment of pain.
“Many patients have run out of options,” Szaflarski said.
As Dr. Peter Grinspoon wrote in the Harvard Health Blog “The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control. While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age. Part of its allure is that it is clearly safer than opiates (it is impossible to overdose on and far less addictive) and it can take the place of NSAIDs such as Advil or Aleve, if people can’t take them due to problems with their kidneys or ulcers or GERD.
Alabamans still must endure a full Senate vote and wonder what Governor Kay Ivey will do who has not commented publicly.
Medical cannabis was first approved in California 23 years ago. Since then, 32 additional states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana for medical use.
Not all physicians are in favor. The Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, stated the following in a Jan. 10, 2019 article by Paul Terpeluk, DO, Medical Director of Employee Health Services, titled “Should ‘Medical Marijuana’ Be Recommended for Patients? Why Our Answer Is ‘No,'” available at health.clevelandclinic.org:
“Q: As more states legalize ‘medical marijuana’, should it be recommended for patients?
A: At Cleveland Clinic, we believe there are better alternatives. In the world of healthcare, a medication is a drug that has endured extensive clinical trials, public hearings and approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Medications are tested for safety and efficacy. They are closely regulated, from production to distribution. They are accurately dosed, down to the milligram.
We reported earlier this week that there is movement on the federal front as well. Marijuana is classified as schedule 1—in the same group with heroin. That designation has prevented serious study about the medical benefits of cannabis in the United States, the type of study that Dr. Terpeluk of the Cleveland Clinic proposes.
In addition to the 33 states and D.C. approved medical cannabis, 10 states now allow recreational use of marijuana.