Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states, including 11 that have also legalized its recreational use, and is supported by an overwhelming majority of the USA.
Two additional states, Alabama and Kentucky, have recently taken steps towards becoming the 34th and 35th states to approve and regulate marijuana for medical purposes. Both states, part of the 17 states holding out against legalization, have advanced respective bills that will authorize the restrictive use of marijuana to treat medical conditions.
Alabama’s bill, titled SB 165 and sponsored by state Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, will make it legal for patients who suffer from cancer, chronic pain, or anxiety to receive a medical marijuana card. Only tablets, certain types of edibles, and creams would be authorized under the bill, excluding smoking and vaping.
The Alabama bill follows a study commissioned by the legislature, which was composed of doctors, lawyers, and legislators who met through the last half of 2019 after a similar bill fell short of passing last year. Once approved, the Governor would need to sign it into law. If the proposed legislation is adopted, Alabama will join Florida and Louisiana as the only Southern states to have a government-regulated medicinal marijuana program. None have approved recreational marijuana.
Kentucky’s bill, House Bill 136 and sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, and Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg and 51 co-sponsors, would also approve restricted use of marijuana for medical purposes and exclude smoking. Some of the proceeds from the 9 percent tax rate will go towards operating the program.
The Kentucky bill cleared its first hurdle by being approved by a vote of 17 to 1. A vote in the House is expected soon. Representative Joe Graviss stated, “We just need to be very careful that we don't let the process get ahead of the science, We really need to work with our farmers and our producers and processors to make sure that everybody can benefit from this terrific opportunity that we have.”
Sponsors of both bills feel confident that each will pass this year, which will build on the existing momentum that medical marijuana has experienced over the last few years.
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