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  • garriganchey

Alabama House Health Committee Excludes Fibromyalgia, PMS, and Menopause from Medical Marijuana Bill

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

On April 14, the Alabama House Health Committee held a public hearing and added amendments to The Compassion Act (SB46), which would set up a commission to legalize medical cannabis in the state. Included in these amendments is one that would prevent people with fibromyalgia, PMS, or menopause from using medical cannabis for treating their conditions. At this point, we support the committee voting in favor of this bill, even with these amendments. Once we get it to the floor, we can improve it there. From the committee discussion, it appears that at least three of the committee members are on the fence or are against it. They are Representative Wes Kitchens, Representative Charlotte Meadows, and Representative Arnold Mooney. There may be others who plan to vote against it but didn't participate in the discussion. So, we encourage you to contact these representatives and tell them to #voteforcompassionact. (Please do so now. The committee is expected to vote on it on Thursday morning, April 15. And if you know you are in the district of one of these representatives, let them know.)

Representative Charlotte Meadows, email her or tweet her.

Representative Wes Kitchens, email him or tweet him.

Representative Arnold Mooney, email him or tweet him.

Representative Paul Lee, email him.

Representative Laura Hall, email her. Representative Jeremy Gray, email him or tweet him.

Representative Craig Lipscomb, email him.

Representative Joe Lovvorn, email him.

Representative Rhett Marques, email him.

Representative Ed Oliver, email him.

Representative Neil Rafferty, email him.

Representative Chris Sells, email him.

Representative Jeff Sorrells, let him know through Facebook, or email his chief of staff.

Representative Scott Stadthagen, email him.

Representative Pebblin Warren, email her.

Below, you can watch the video. A few minor bill changes are discussed in the beginning.

At the 13:00 mark is the public comments on it. During that time, our executive director speaks in favor of the bill as it was first presented (31:09 mark) and one of our members, Antoine Mordican, with Native Black Farm, speaks in favor of it (32:50 mark).

At the 41:26 mark, the committee starts asking questions, discussing it, and adding more amendments. You'll also see Senator Tim Melson, the bill's sponsor, explain why we can't just rely on the FDA to tell us whether marijuana is safe and effective. That topic comes up a few times from 39 minutes in to the end.

Against Excluding Fibromyalgia, PMS, and Menopause

Since Chairman Paul Lee said he doesn't want to see any changes to the bill after today, we will take our concerns over some of the amendments to the whole house.

Representative Charlotte Meadows, who said she has not decided to vote for or against the bill, added an amendment that would exclude patients from using medical cannabis on the basis of a diagnosis of menopause, PMS, or fibromyalgia. There was some talk that someone with fibromyalgia could get it under another diagnosis. However, we feel this puts undue burden on doctors and patients and is an unjustified reason to limit access. And we are concerned that the illnesses in these exclusions are affecting mostly women. Our position is that determining when a treatment is helpful should be the decision of the patient and the doctor. It's very common for medications to have beneficial "off-label" use.

A March 2020 study showed cannabis helped fibromyalgia patients by reducing pain, reducing the need for other pain medicines, reducing anxiety and depression, and was particularly helpful for those with sleep dysfunctions. Also, doctors report it helps with menstrual cramps because it is a muscle relaxer. In northern California, about 25% of menopausal women use cannabis to ease menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings. While there may be current medications for these, some have unwanted side effects, and some women's conditions are very severe and may need cannabis in addition to other treatments. In fact, as it is now, some with fibromyalgia resort to opioids to get relief. Controlled, high-quality cannabis is much better in these situations.

Against Only One Flavor

We understand not wanting to have cannabis edibles have a sugar coating. It's not candy. But an amendment that has been added to this bill would limit edible flavoring to just one flavor, whichever flavor the yet-to-be-created medical cannabis commission chooses. As Representative Mooney mentioned, "What if they choose sweet potato?"

Antoine Mordican, who spoke at the meeting and is a grower, tells us he is does not support the flavor limitation. "Not everyone likes the same flavor," he told us. "People should have options."

Just as cough drops have different flavors to mask bitterness and make taking the medicine more palatable, medical cannabis users should be able to choose. Processors should be allowed to use their own innovations in creating a marketable product. The free market should be in control of the flavors, not the government.

Support Adding Assisted Living Centers

One amendment we like is adding assisted living centers to the facilities that would not be arrested for providing medical cannabis treatments to a person living there who meets the standards for being a patient allowed to use medical cannabis.

Support 25% Diversity

Antoine Mordican mentioned a provision in the bill he likes: that a percentage of those who get the business licenses must have a majority minority ownership. Right now, the bill has the following requirement:

This is good. For too long, marijuana laws have been used to deny liberty to minorities. And this provision helps to make sure our minority-owned businesses are not shut out by well-connected players. We see this as an opportunity for Alabama's Black Belt to overcome the economic challenges since their soil is well-suited for growing cannabis.