Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation on Monday that will legalize medical cannabis in the state.
Medical Marijuana Legalized in Alabama
Following Alabama’s state House passing the legislation last month with a vote of 68-35, Alabama Gov. Ivey announced on Monday that she has signed off on Senate Bill 46 – making Alabama the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana.
When the bill arrived on the governor’s desk, she had a few options: sign the bill, veto the bill, or propose amendments to the bill for lawmakers to review. Based on Gov. Ivey’s comments following the House’s contentious floor vote on the bill–expressing minor concerns over legalization–many advocates for reform were expecting the Republican governor to suggest changes.
“It was a thorough debate and yes, we will continue to review it. It helps some people, but you just don’t want it to get out of control,” Ivey told WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama. “But I hope after thoroughly reviewing it we can sign the bill.”
Surprising many, Gov. Ivey chose to sign the bill as is – likely due to the measure’s already-restrictive approach to medical marijuana. Under the bill, legal cannabis products are limited to tinctures, capsules, lozenges, topicals, nebulizers, suppositories, and skin patches – not permitting marijuana edibles or “any product administered by smoking, combustion, or vaping.”
“As research evolves, [lawmakers] and I discussed how critical it is to continue finding ways to work on this to ensure we have a productive, safe, and responsible operation in Alabama,” said Gov. Ivey.
For Alabama representatives, a safe and responsible medical marijuana program means a strict list of qualifying medical conditions for hopeful patients:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cancer-related Nausea, Weight Loss or Pain
- Crohn’s Disease
- HIV-related Nausea or Weight-Loss
- Panic Disorder
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Spasticity Associated with ALS or MS
- Terminal Illnesses
- Tourette’s Syndrome
Fibromyalgia and menopause were included in previous iterations of the bill before an accepted amendment did away with them. As for patients with other conditions that cause chronic pain, participation in the program is only allowed if “conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective” – a distinction that has drawn the ire of many cannabis advocates.
Senate Bill 46 also contains restrictions for medical professionals, as physicians are only eligible to recommend cannabis to patients after completing a four-hour course and passing an exam – a process that could cost upwards of $800.
Despite the relatively restrictive nature of the legislation, supporters of legalization see the bill as a definite move in the right direction – a sentiment that’s been echoed by key leaders throughout Alabama.
“Signing SB 46 is an important first step,” said Governor Ivey. “This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied. On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
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