By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
State Lawmaker: 'Good Possibility' He Will Sponsor A Medical Marijuana Bill In Alabama Legislature
Did you know that the Heart of Dixie stands an excellent chance to become the first medical marijuana state in the Deep South?
The newest Alabama group working to allow marijuana as medicine is taking its message to the people with a series of picnic-style meetings across the state. The Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition (AMMJC), the group's second event, was held Saturday in Jacksonville at Germania Springs Park.
A crowd that grew to close to 70 people was on hand for the picnic, including a state lawmaker who said there is a "good possibility" that he will sponsor a medical marijuana bill in the Alabama Legislature next year.
Rep. K.L. Brown (R-Jacksonville) said some legislators will never get past the stigma of the word "marijuana," reports Jason Bacaj of The Anniston Star. But Brown said he showed up at the picnic to learn more about the issue and about the people involved with the coalition.
Brown has a personal connection to the use of medicinal cannabis, as he lost a sister to breast cancer in 1987. He said he didn't know much about marijuana then, but he saw how it worked to relieve his ailing sister's pain and nausea.
"I do know that marijuana tablets were very helpful to her there, especially at the end," Brown said.
According to Rep. Brown, if the AMMJC can get people to listen to stories of situations where marijuana helps people with pain and nausea, the bill stands of chance of success in Montgomery.
"They were the hardest working guys in Montgomery last year, and I think they made a lot of headway," Brown said of the AMMJC. "If we can go at it with the same energy as the past year, maybe we can have some success this time."
AMMJC Co-President Ron Crumpton agrees.
"We worked with Represantative Brown during the last session, and when we started looking for a sponsor in the House, he wasn't at the top of the list; was was the top of the list," Crumpton told Toke of the Town. "He is great at what he does because he seems so mild mannered, yet he is surprisingly tenacious. He just calmly beats you over the head with reason and facts until you have almost no choice but to agree with him," Crumpton told me.
"People think I'm crazy when I saw we can pass our bill this year," Crumpton said, "but I can tell you that for a medical marijuana bill to pass in a Legislature state you have to do two things: You have to build relationships with legislators and you have to conquer the stigma associated with marijuana.
"We forged the relationships during the last session," Crumpton told me. "Our goal for the next session is to deal with perception. If we do that the bill will pass."
Harsh Pharmaceuticals or Organic Marijuana?
People Should Have The Choice
AMMJC Co-President Chris Butts told the crowd that a two-story fall 19 years ago left with with a spinal compression injury, slowly degenerating discs along his spine and daily pain that got him a permanent prescription for Oxycontin.
Butts said he became addicted to the prescription narcotic and it nearly ruined his life. After five years he was able to kick the habit by using medical marijuana, which Butts said he had used daily for 14 years in edible form to manage pain from the injury.
"I'm just somebody who doesn't want to feel like a criminal for doing something my doctor advised," Butts said.
According to Butts, besides the obvious legal challenges faced by Alabama residents who choose to use marijuana medicinally, there are quality control problems with black market weed. Butts said that many patients were so desperate for something that worked, that they used cannabis despite the laws.
"It's ludicrous to think that tens of thousands of patients in the 16 medical marijuana states are using marijuana to help with their conditions, and the patients in Alabama aren't," Butts told Toke of the Town Sunday night. "The difference is, our patients here are using a product that has been smuggled across our northern and southern borders and is subject to be moldy or mildewed, or have who knows what in it.
"It seems to me the better solution is to have safe access to a clean, locally produced product that is subject to state inspection," Butts told me.
He still has that Oxycontin prescription, but Butts said he now he only has to use it three or four times a year, and is able to take it when necessary without relapsing into addiction, thanks to medical marijuana.
A wide variety of people attended the meeting, from teenagers with facial piercings to a decorated Vietnam veteran who has used cannabis to treat combat-related ailments for 38 years. The veteran said he fought in the Marines in the 77-day Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968, earning a Silver Star and a Purple Heart during his tour.
It was when he returned home that he realized marijuana helped him handle the post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares and other health problems -- including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder due to Agent Orange -- lingering from the war.
"It helps me better than any damn pill," the veteran said. "Got to go out to the damn ghetto (to get it). That's the problem."
You Can Help
"We at AMMJC would like to thank the 60-plus people who chocked back the fear and taboo associated with this issue and attended the event," Butts said. "AMMJC will be doing these little events in every corner of the state before the end of the year and things look they they will only get bigger and better.
"We call on all Alabamians who support the therapeutic use of marijuana to join us," Butts said. "We are easy to find on Facebook and have a web presence at AMMJC.org. Please contact us if you support our efforts and want to help."
"To raise awareness we need a steady stream of letters to the editor to local newspapers and letters to your representatives and senators in the Alabama Legislature," Butts said. "We need supportive Alabamians to talk to the people in their community about this touchy subject and be honest with everyone about their support."
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.