Alabama marijuana bill backer hopeful

April 20, 2005

Jannell McGrew and John Davis , Montgomery Advertiser

A bill to legalize medical marijuana may be in jeopardy as the May 16 legislative deadline draws near.

The House Judiciary Committee, on a voice vote Wednesday, shipped the proposal to subcommittee. Some lawmakers are questioning whether the measure is dead -- at least for this legislative session.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said she still is working to keep the bill afloat.

'We plan to have it back on the calendar next week,' she said. There are only six days remaining in the 2005 regular session.

Hall's bill would legalize the use of marijuana for the seriously ill and dying.

The state lawmaker said she wished the state had promoted such a law years ago. Hall's son was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989. She said he suffered from pain and loss of appetite.

She believes medical marijuana could have afforded him some relief.

'I just think it's a means of having some compassionate care and providing an alternative to patients,' Hall said.

Under Hall's proposal, patients could obtain legal marijuana upon the recommendation of their doctor.

'This is a medical issue,' Hall said. 'It is not a criminal issue.'

Janet Johnson, diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and with AIDS in 2002, does not endorse legalizing marijuana. She says she is taking three types of AIDS medications.

'I don't see what legalizing marijuana will do for us,' she said. 'An addict would just have more freedom to get the drug. I have a problem with addiction, so for me, that would not be a good thing.'

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, have said they would be willing to entertain the measure if patients were required to obtain the medication through pharmacies.

He said he does not support allowing someone to grow pot in his back yard.

'That bill is so open to abuse,' Brewbaker said. 'The bad could outweigh the good.'

State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, looks on as Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, discusses a medical marijuana bill Wednesday. Brewbaker said the bill 'is so open to abuse. The bad could outweigh the good.'

State Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, believes there are more viable alternatives, such as Marinol, the pill form of marijuana.

'I understand the need for it, but I think there are sufficient medications now, that it's not needed,' Gipson said. 'I just can't see Alabama approving the legalization of pot. Let's face it, we still are having battles approving booze in some parts of this state.'

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