On January 27th of 2021, an Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana.
Alabama Medical Marijuana Law
Last year, Senator Tim Melson proposed Senate Bill 46, also known as the Compassion Act, which passed by a vote of 8-3 and was then sent to the senate floor. However, while Melson’s bill was approved by the senate, it unfortunately died when the legislature had to be shut down due to the global pandemic― a “close but no cigar” kind of situation. But the bill is moving forward on the senate floor this time.
While the bill should be considered a win for marijuana enthusiasts alike, there is some noteworthy information in this bill. Again, any type of cannabis legalization is considered a win in my book, but this bill would prevent: raw cannabis smoking, vaping and candy or baked goods from being sold to patients. Medical patients would then only be allowed to purchase capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories and topical patches. The bill also would create an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to implement certain regulations for those dispensing to qualified patients.
Karen O’Keefe, who heads the Marijuana Policy Project stated, “It’s encouraging to see lawmakers making progress towards legalizing medical marijuana in Alabama. It is morally wrong to continue to treat Alabamians who suffer from serious medical conditions as criminals for using a substance that is now legal in 36 states. However, we urge lawmakers to revise the provisions of the bill that create significant barriers for patients and their physicians.” This law requires physicians take a 4 hour long course and pass an exam, this costing about $500 for the physician.
Medical Marijuana Patients and Marijuana Activism
In order to be a qualifying patient, you would have to be diagnosed with one of around twenty different conditions. Those conditions include sleep disorders, PTSD, anxiety, intractable pain, and several others. This bill, if passed, would not allow regulators to add additional conditions which would leave it up to lawmakers to figure out other qualifying criteria. However, Senator Bobby Singleton was able to add an amendment to this bill that allowed for Sickle Cell Anemia to be on the list of qualifying conditions, so we are at least happy about that.
A big problem with this bill lies with some of the provisions in place to help make it a “bipartisan” issue. Advocates have voiced their worry over one part in particular that states, “Patients with chronic or intractable pain could only be recommended medical marijuana in cases where, ‘conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective.” This is concerning as many patients with terminal illness don’t have the chance to try medical marijuana until they find that opioids couldn’t help them.
One great feature of this bill is the legal protections given to caregivers, patients, as well as medical marijuana businesses. This means they have immunity from the state on the grounds of a penalization. However, there is a purchase limit patients cannot exceed, and that is, “70 daily dosages of medical cannabis.” Dose’s cannot exceed 75 milligrams per each dose.
If approved, this bill would allow for up to four cultivators, four processors, and four dispensaries for the year one roll out. More could be seen in the future if the department deems it necessary. None of these buildings would be allowed to operate until the year 2022. Until then, we want your help to spread the news, promote activism, and encourage cannabis education to those who know nothing about it. Cheers to greater legalization efforts!
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