Tim Morris wanted to be heard.
He traveled with friends from Ozark on Thursday morning to Montgomery. He walked from their parked car to the eighth floor of the State House, stopping five times due to the pain from neuropathy and back surgeries that he lives with daily, the pain that forced him to retire as a mechanic.
During the 2 1/2-hour meeting, he spoke up from his seat in the committee room. At one point, Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission chair Tim Melson, a Republican senator from Florence, came into the audience to tell him he would have a chance to speak.
Morris said afterward he’s not comfortable speaking. The pain he feels makes him anxious. But he walked to the podium, a cane in his hand, and urged the members of the commission to push forward on a proposal to make medical marijuana available in the state.
He smokes marijuana, he said, to get his pain to a point where he can sleep at night. And if he gets arrested for it, so be it.
“When people scream who we should be helping, we don’t get no help,” he told the commission. “I don’t get no help. And I’m mad.”
Morris’ story was one of many the commission heard at the meeting. Sitting two seats away was David Grantham, a Dothan man who developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) after “tearing up my ankle” as a UPS delivery driver. The condition, he said, makes his body feel like its burning from the inside. Grantham is ready to move to Colorado or Florida to get access to medical cannabis, the only thing he says controls it.
That would mean moving away from his children. But, he said, “I’m literally burned from the inside out,” he said. “I’ve got lighter fluid in my veins.”
The commission will look for a legal framework for medical cannabis in Alabama, and preventing people like Grantham from moving to find the relief they need. The commission must submit a report and a proposed bill to the legislature by Dec. 1. The 2020 legislative session begins in February.
Alabama has allowed limited use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil in a study at UAB. Last May, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Melson that would have authorized medical marijuana for 12 different conditions, if two physicians signed on and more traditional treatments proved ineffective.
But the bill ran into opposition in the House, as the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics raised concerns about access and Attorney General Steve Marshal raised concerns about regulating THC levels in CBD oil. Melson and other supporters agreed to convert the legislation into a study bill.
More: Alabama medical marijuana commission holds first meeting
Melson said at the meeting he would circulate draft legislation among committee members to get their input. The draft, he said after the meeting, was essentially the same bill he filed last year.
“I’m trying to work with everybody,” he said. “We’re not going to come out with everyone agreeing.”
Melson also urged „interested stakeholders” to speak with him. Business and law enforcement, he said, had been silent about the legislation.
„If you have an issue, it’s time to flesh it out,” he said. „It’s not when we’re in session when there are 200 bills out there.”
The commission also heard from Curt Fuller of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, who discussed methods of testing for THC in individuals. Jerzy Szaflarski, who reviewed the scientific literature on the effectiveness of medical cannabis on various illnesses. Szaflarski highlighted several conditions medical cannabis appeared to help, including general and cancer-related pain; weight loss from HIV/AIDS; post-traumatic stress disorder; sleep disorders, conditions associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS), and Tourette’s syndrome.
Szaflarski, involved in studies of CBD at UAB, told members of the commission that they needed to ensure “appropriate control” of any cannabis products sold in Alabama, particularly when it came to dosage.
“You have a different response with a different dose, and a different response with different symptoms,” he said. “Physicians throughout the country have been struggling to find this sweet spot.”
Morris said other drugs prescribed to him had proved ineffective and made it hard for him to remember what he’s doing. He said he tries to “deal with my pain all day long, as long as I can” before he turns to the marijuana, which, he said, “levels out” the pain. It was, he said the only thing that worked.
“I don’t care if they bust me for it,” he said. “That’s the point I’m in. Because what are they going to do?”
He gestured to his legs.
“Put me in jail and then pay for this that’s going on?” Morris said. “No, they won’t.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com.