Pubdate: Wed, 12 Mar 2014
Source: Anniston Star (AL)
Copyright: 2014 Consolidated Publishing
Author: Tim Lockette


MONTGOMERY - The Alabama Senate voted 34- 0 Tuesday in favor of a 
medical study that would allow some people with epilepsy to have 
access to a cannabis-derived medicine.

Despite the unanimous vote, the Legislature doesn't appear likely to 
approve the use of other forms of medical marijuana any time soon.

"The regular kind, with the THC, I am not in support of," said Sen. 
Paul Sanford, R- Huntsville.

Sanford is the sponsor of a bill called "Carly's Law" which would set 
up a five-year study, through the University of Alabama at 
Birmingham, in which the university would treat some patients who 
have severe epileptic seizures with cannabidiol, an oil derived from 
marijuana plants. The oil doesn't have the psychoactive effects 
people associate with marijuana, Sanford said.

Sanford's bill doesn't define how many people would be involved in 
the study, nor does it specify what UAB will study, beyond 
determining "medical uses and benefits of cannabidiol." But the 
existence of the study - which will have UAB as the only distributor 
of the drug, and only for study purposes - allowed Sanford to build 
support for the bill among legislators who are reluctant to show an 
ounce of support for pot legalization.

The bill is named for Carly Chandler, a 3- year-old with epilepsy 
whose parents have campaigned for legalization of cannabidiol. "God 
is good," said Dustin Chandler, Carly's father. "If it wasn't for 
Him, I don't believe we would have gone so far so fast."

The original draft of Sanford's bill made cannabidiol legal for 
people under treatment for certain conditions, but that draft met 
with opposition in Senate committee.

Sanford and other lawmakers announced UAB's involvement in a press 
conference Tuesday. In a statement distributed at the press 
conference, UAB Department of Neurology chairman David Standaert said 
UAB will "undertake research into the mechanisms underlying 
cannabidiol to learn more about its ... effect on seizures."

By Tuesday afternoon, former critics of the bill were lining up on 
the Senate floor to praise it.

"You've addressed each and every one of our concerns," said Sen. 
Bryan Taylor. R- Prattville, who'd opposed the bill in committee. 
Taylor said that after meeting with families of epilepsy patients, he 
would vote for the bill and "( couldn't) imagine doing anything different."

The bill would set aside $ 1 million in the state's education budget 
to pay for the study in 2015. That would require $ 1 million in cuts 
elsewhere, and Sanford said he didn't know where those cuts would be 
made. The Senate has already approved an education budget, and the 
House version of the budget will be debated in committee Wednesday morning.

Alabama lawmakers have repeatedly said no to efforts to legalize 
other forms of marijuana for medical uses. Advocates say marijuana is 
useful in treating Parkinson's disease, glaucoma and the nausea 
associated with chemotherapy.

Rep. K. L. Brown, R- Jacksonville, has introduced medical marijuana 
bills, inspired by the memory of his late sister, who used the drug 
while being treated for breast cancer.

Brown said it will take a series of "small steps" before Alabama 
lawmakers are ready to legalize medical marijuana. He said the 
cannabis oil bill could be one of those steps.

"It would be a blessing to be able to pass the bill and help that 
little girl," he said. "People need to realize that there are other 
people in the state who are hurting, too."

Lawmakers were careful to distance themselves from legalization on 
the Senate floor Tuesday.

"We're not legalizing marijuana, we're not legalizing drugs, though I 
know political spinmasters will take some of those shots," said Sen. 
Roger Bedford, D- Russelville.

In Tuesday morning press conference, Rep. Allen Farley, R- McCalla, 
did bring up the term, asking "who in their wildest imagination would 
have thought a veteran assistant sheriff... would be called on to 
bring about a bill that would have anything to do with marijuana."

Farley, a former law enforcement officer, is one of the sponsors of 
the bill in the House.

Sanford said the bill would likely hit the House next week.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom