Pubdate: Thu, 28 Apr 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Jannell McGrew, Montgomery Advertiser
Referenced: House Bill 703
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Some thought state Rep. Laura Hall's bill to make medical marijuana legal 
in Alabama had gone up in smoke, but the Huntsville Democrat has managed to 
get her much-debated measure out of a House committee.

The proposal is on its way to a vote before the full House, but another 
hurdle -- time -- may be the one thing that kills the bill for now. There 
are only three legislative work days remaining in the 2005 regular session 
of the Alabama Legislature.

Hall's bill would legalize the use of marijuana for the seriously ill and 
dying. It would make it legal for state residents like Laura Campbell, who 
smokes marijuana illegally for her pain, to use the drug without the 
prospect of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

According to authorities, a person convicted of felony possession of 
marijuana could pay up to $5,000 in fines and serve up to 10 years in 
prison. Conviction for misdemeanor possession carries a fine of up to 
$2,000 and a year in jail.

Campbell, who suffers from three forms of arthritis and fibromyalgia and 
takes 14 pills a day for her ailments, is hopeful the measure will pass.

"A lot of people are saying they think it may die in three days," she said. 
"And some people said it would take nine days to elect a pope. Stranger 
things have happened, and we have three days."

Hall, the bill's sponsor, is doubtful the measure will make it out of the 
House in time, but she vowed that if it doesn't pass this session, she'll 
be back in 2006 pushing her bill. She was pleased to at least see the 
measure out of committee.

"At this point, it keeps the discussion going," she said.

Some lawmakers oppose the bill, saying there are more viable alternatives, 
such as Marinol, the pill form of marijuana.

Others, including state Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, expressed 
concerns about the bill and wanted patients to be required to obtain the 
medication through pharmacies. Hall obliged.

"It's a better bill now," Brewbaker said. "Essentially, what it does is 
treat medical marijuana like any other painkiller. You have to get it 
prescribed by a doctor, and you have to obtain it through a pharmacy. In 
other words, you can't go out and buy it on the streets illegally."

Hall said she wished the state had enacted such a law years ago. Her son 
was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989. Hall said he suffered from loss of 
appetite and pain. She believes medical marijuana could have provided him 
some relief during tough times.

Michael Blain, policy director for the Drug Policy Alliance, supports 
Hall's bill. He noted that several other states have allowed some form of 
medical marijuana.

"I applaud Laura Hall for her courage and tenacity, but most of all, for 
remembering that in the final days of her son's life, he needed more 
compassionate care than was available," Blain said. "Alabamians have the 
right to have their physicians prescribe whatever is needed to ease the 
pain and suffering of debilitating illnesses. If you can't get compassion 
in Alabama, where can you get it?" 
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