Sharp disagreement broke out today at the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission during a meeting that also included testimony from four people about how medical marijuana relieved crippling pain and symptoms for them or their relatives.
The Legislature set up the commission to study whether Alabama should join 34 states in legalizing medical marijuana. The group met for the second time at the State House.
Commission member Stephen Taylor, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and addiction psychiatrist, said marijuana is not a medicine and that calling it medicine will lead more young people to use it with harmful effects.
“If it hasn’t been validated as a medicine, we shouldn’t be calling it medical marijuana or medical cannabis,” Taylor said. “And the idea that we would just put something out there and call it medicine for the people of our state to use when it really isn’t a legitimate medicine, that concerns me. That means that we are taking the chance at causing more harm than good. And that’s the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Taylor pointed out that U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory in August about the dangers of marijuana use by teens and pregnant women and misperceptions about the safety of marijuana.
Taylor’s comments brought a response from Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, chairman of the Medical Cannabis Commission and a supporter of medical marijuana. Melson, who is an anesthesiologist and medical researcher, said there are studies showing medical marijuana can help some patients, whether it’s called medicine or not.
“What would you like to call it?,” Melson said. “Because I can show you studies where it helps, so let’s come up with a name that makes everybody happy because a name is a name. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the results and the studies that show that it’s been effective.
“So, I don’t care what we call it. But I’m going to tell you that I want to find a way to get it to the people who need it and do it in a responsible way.”
Today’s meeting drew a crowd that filled one of the larger committee rooms at the State House. The commission includes representatives from the fields of medicine, law enforcement, drug addiction treatment, agriculture, pharmacy, and others. It will make a recommendation to the Legislature.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed Melson’s bill to legalize medical marijuana to relieve symptoms for certain conditions. The bill met opposition in the House, and lawmakers changed it to create the study commission.
Alice Slocumb of Alexander City told the commission about her son, James Lovejoy, 37, who suffers from a congenital rheumatic spinal condition that causes extreme pain.
“There is no cure. There is no conventional treatment that really helped James at all. The only option given to him was strong, addictive pain killers, which he would not take,” Slocumb said.
Slocumb said her son’s condition worsened after he graduated from Georgia Tech and began his career as a CPA. She said it reached the point where he worked flat on his back in his office because that position gave him relief.
Her son and his wife moved to Denver and he has found relief from medical marijuana, Slocumb said.
“He still lives in Denver where he has his own CPA firm,” Slocumb said. “He can shovel all the snow that falls out there. He can lift his 100 pound dog. He can even play golf. James has a full life because of medical marijuana. But he can’t have that full life in Alabama.”
The commission’s next meeting will be in October.