Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives blocked a vote tonight on a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax medical marijuana.
The House adjourned at 11:43 p.m. after debating the legislation more than nine hours. They will return at 8 a.m. Thursday.
“I hope and pray that we take up where we’re at and we stay with this until we get an up or down vote,” Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, the House sponsor of the bill, said. “And I think you can see from the votes so far that there is a huge amount of support in this body, bipartisan support.”
Ball was referring to procedural votes on the bill today that passed by wide margins. But the final vote did not come tonight.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said tonight as he left the chamber that the House would return to the medical marijuana bill Thursday morning. McCutcheon said he expects there will be a vote Thursday.
The speaker said the House on Thursday will also consider the bills to allow a lottery and six new casinos in Alabama. Those bills were approved in a committee Tuesday. The key bill in the three-bill package is a constitutional amendment that would require approval by voters in November 2022.
The final vote on medical marijuana never came tonight because a handful of lawmakers made repeated trips to the mic to delay it. McCutcheon said there was not enough support to pass a petition for cloture, which would have cut off the debate. The Republican majority has used cloture petitions to end Democratic filibusters during this session, but in this case would have been shutting off a filibuster by Republicans.
Still, the medical marijuana bill is closer than ever come to becoming law. It has passed the Senate three times but has never come up for a vote in the House.
Several Republican lawmakers opened the debate today by expressing staunch opposition to medical marijuana, saying it would move the state in the wrong direction and they were surprised it was being considered in Alabama.
But the bill cleared a procedural motion that was necessary for the debate to continue. The vote was 69-31. Another procedural vote passed 71-20. The debate continued after that until the House adjourned.
The legislation would set up a system to regulate the production and use of medical cannabis products from the cultivation of the plants to the sales of products at dispensaries.
Doctors could recommend medical marijuana for more than a dozen symptoms and conditions, including chronic pain, nausea and weight loss from cancer, seizure disorders, PTSD, muscle spasms from certain diseases, and others.
The bill, by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, has already passed the Senate. Melson, a physician and medical researcher, said the 69-31 procedural vote was a strong sign that the House would pass the bill tonight.
“I have no doubt that it’s going to pass if it’s given a vote,” Melson said.