Its sponsor, Democratic Rep. Patricia Todd of Birmingham, said Wednesday that legalizing the drug for medical purposes would help cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and others suffering from severe pain. The bill has failed several times, but Todd says her spirits are buoyed because similar bills have recently passed in other states.
"This would place another tool in the medical tool bag for treating people in pain," Todd said. "It can bring a lot of relief to people."
A total of 18 states currently have legalized medical marijuana and two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized the general use of the drug in small amounts. But using marijuana remains a violation of federal law.
The 2013 session of the Alabama Legislature begins Tuesday and Todd's bill is the first issue scheduled to be considered Wednesday by the House Health Committee.
It chairman, Republican Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville, said the bill has been in his committee before, but this could be the first time it comes up for a vote.
McClendon would not say how he expects to vote.
Officials with the Libertarian Party of Alabama released a statement saying they support legalizing medical marijuana.
The party said in the release that hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide have found "marijuana in its natural form to be therapeutically beneficial and are utilizing it with their doctors' consent.
"This issue isn't about marijuana; this is about compassion for suffering patients," said party Chairman Mark Bodenhausen.