Alabama could become the first state in the South to allow the use of a medicine derived from marijuana.
A bill introduced on Jan. 14 in the state legislature would legalize cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that is low in weed's principal high-producing compound, THC.
Alabama's new bill, HB 104, would let people who have been diagnosed by a doctor as having a "debilitating medical condition" and who use CBD for therapeutic or palliative relief plead that defense in court if charged with possessing the drug. The bill defines "debilitating medical conditions" as including chronic pain, wasting syndrome, seizures, severe nausea, or "any other condition that is severe and resistant to conventional medicine."
The proposed legislation is being called Carly's Law after 2-year-old Carly Chandler, who has a rare neurological disorder and whose father has advocated for legalizing CBD to treat her. Carly's Law would not legalize the smoking of marijuana for any medical conditions.
Advocates say the bill is only a small step forward.
"This law is not perfect, and still leaves many patients behind. But it is a step in the right direction," Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Analyst Rachelle Yeung told The Huffington Post in an email. "Many states have started with similar affirmative defense laws and gone on to adopt comprehensive medical marijuana programs that would not subject patients to prosecution at all."
So far, the bill has gained support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. Even Alabama's conservative governor has suggested he would be open to such a law.
The bill is currently pending committee action.
Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of medical marijuana. To date, not a single state in the South has taken that step, although Georgia is considering legalizing CBD oil this year, and broader bills are currently in the works in Tennessee and Kentucky.