Stephen Taylor, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and addiction psychiatrist who sits on the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, said at a meeting Monday that pot is not medicine.
“If it hasn’t been validated as a medicine, we shouldn’t be calling it medical marijuana or medical cannabis,” Taylor said, as quoted by AL.com. “And the idea that we would just put something out there and call it medicine for the people of our state to use when it really isn’t a legitimate medicine, that concerns me. That means that we are taking the chance at causing more harm than good. And that’s the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Taylor’s sharp rebuke prompted disagreement among members of the panel, which was created by the state’s legislature after a bill to legalize medical marijuana fizzled earlier this year.
Republican state Sen. Tim Melson, a supporter of medical cannabis and the chairman of the commission, challenged Taylor’s assertion.
“What would you like to call it?,” Melson said, according to AL.com. “Because I can show you studies where it helps, so let’s come up with a name that makes everybody happy because a name is a name. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the results and the studies that show that it’s been effective.”
“So, I don’t care what we call it,” he added. “But I’m going to tell you that I want to find a way to get it to the people who need it and do it in a responsible way.”
The Medical Cannabis Study Commission convened for the first time last month after the legislature shifted the focus of a bill that aimed to make Alabama the 34th state to legalize medical marijuana.
That bill was sponsored by Melson, and it would have permitted doctors in Alabama to recommend medical marijuana for patients suffering from roughly a dozen conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But Melson’s colleagues in the legislature said they needed more information, and the 15-person commission was born.
Melson said in May that he understood why some of his colleagues were hesitant.
“It’s a big step,” Melson said at the time. “And everybody is stepping out of their comfort zone. You’re asking for a Schedule 1 drug to be given to patients. And it’s the same drug that’s been enjoyed and abused by people throughout the years, centuries and centuries.”
The revised bill requires the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to hold at least three public hearings before reporting its findings to the legislature in December.