Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Authors: Jannell McGrew, and John Davis
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


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 

"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 

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 

"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. 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."

In other action Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee acted on 
Brewbaker's proposed Alabama Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with 
Disabilities Prevention Act.

The measure, which would give parents or children, present or former health 
care providers, and state agencies the power to go to court in order to 
block the removal of a feeding tube, was sent to a subcommittee for more 
study at the lawmaker's request.

The representative introduced his bill after Terri Schiavo's husband won a 
court order to remove her feeding tube over her parents' objections.

In the high chamber's only committee meeting Wednesday, members of the 
Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would set up a procedure to 
release old and sickly inmates.

Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, voted to send the measure to the full 
Senate. According to Ross, the release of the old and infirm from Alabama's 
prisons would help relieve overcrowding.

The Alabama prison system, at almost double its designed capacity, is one 
of the most overcrowded in the nation. Releasing the sick and elderly 
could, at best, free up about 300 beds.

If passed, the new law would apply only to inmates "who do not constitute a 
danger to themselves or society."

According to Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett, taking out 
hundreds of sick inmates could save the system money on medical care.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom