Proponents of the legalization of medical marijuana in Alabama are going to get a chance to formally make their case to a group of lawmakers next month. And so will opponents.
An Alabama House Healthcare Committee hearing on the issue has been set for 1 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Statehouse.
Proposals to legalize medical marijuana have been kicking around the Legislature for about nine years, said Ron Crumpton, executive director of the Alabama Patients' Rights Coalition and Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition.
Crumpton said he's been all over the state recently trying to drum up support for medical marijuana.
"Overwhelmingly, everywhere we go we get a tremendous amount of support," he said. "And it's not just young people or people with pink hair and nose rings."
Many supporters are between 40 and 60 years old, he said.
"We've had a lot of supporters who their husband or wife has died of cancer," Crumpton said. "That brought them around; that opened their eyes."
According to draft legislation listed on Crumpton's website, ammjc.org, medical marijuana can treat dozens of illnesses and disorders, ranging from AIDS and autism to cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The proposed bill Crumpton's groups are pushing would only legalize medical marijuana and not the drug's recreational usage. The bill also requires users to get an identification card from the state department of health and limits the amount of marijuana they can have at any time.
In the legislative session earlier this year, a similar marijuana bill didn't make it out of committee.
Seventeen states allow for and regulate medical marijuana. None of them are in South. Arkansas voters will decide Nov. 6 if they want to legalize it there.
Marijuana is a natural alternative to chemically processed medications, Crumpton said. But there's another point lawmakers should consider: Millions of dollars in potential fees and tax revenue.
"The state would make money," he said.
Want to know more? The Alabama Patients' Rights Coalition and Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition are holding an informational picnic 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur.
A change to how Alabama pays worker compensation benefits – aimed at saving the state millions each year – went into effect late this summer.
Under the new law, approved by the Legislature in the spring, unemployed workers don't receive benefits for the first week they're out of work. But a previous benefit gap at the 13th week of unemployment was eliminated.
The change means people out of work for just one week won't receive compensation, said Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for Alabama Department of Labor.
"If someone is out of work for a temporary one-week stoppage, they will not receive benefits for that week, because the waiting week would have to be applied," Hutchison said. "However, if they were laid off again for another one-week period during the same year, they would receive benefits."
Hutchison said the change is expected to save the Alabama Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund about $14 million each year.
The savings comes from individuals who serve the waiting period during the first week and come off the rolls before the waiting period between week 13 and 14, according to the law.