Last week, an Alabama Senate Committee voted to pass an amendment to an existing bill that would add cannabis products Delta 8 and Delta 10 to the state’s controlled substance list. Cannabis activists are speaking out, especially as the state is working to legalize medical marijuana currently, and these two pieces of legislation seem at total odds with each other.
If Passed, Some Hemp Products Will Become Illegal in Alabama.
After becoming federally legal in 2019, hemp production became a legitimate agricultural business in Alabama. Hemp has been grown and used in a variety of ways for more than a century. Its most well-known uses include rope and clothing, however hemp can also be used to make biodegradable plastics, paper, and biofuel.
Along with hemp’s more traditional uses, the plant can be used to create products including CBD, Delta 8, and Delta 10. Although these products may contain some of the psychoactive agent THC that is active in marijuana plants, the amount is low enough that it is not classified as weed by the federal government. Therefore, the products have previously been available in gas stations, groceries stores, and pharmacies legally.
The amendment was put forth by state Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka. However, when he originally proposed it, there was only one purpose: to ban the drug tianeptine, an anti-depressant which, when used in higher doses, can have similar effects as opioids and runs a high risk of addiction. This original legislation, House Bill 2, passed in an uncontested vote before passing to the senate.
State Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added a paragraph into HB2, ‘On page 2, after line 20, insert a new paragraph f. as follows: “f. Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Delta-10-Tetrahydrocannabinol, including any salts, isomers, or salts of isomers of Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta-10-Tetrahydrocannabinol.”’
The bill, as amended by Orr, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6 to 3 vote. This alteration would effectively force retailers to remove products from the shelves.
Alabama Hemp Industry Leaders are Speaking Out
Local business owners have expressed concerns about the negative impact on a recently-thriving hemp industry. The sales of Delta-8 and Delta-10 products is vital to business owners and consumers, as it is the fastest growing market in the hemp industry. Alabama’s hemp industry has bolstered jobs and small business success, across the state.
Consumers are also speaking out, saying that these products are vital to their health. The products have a multitude of uses, including fighting nausea, insomnia, and anxiety, and they provide an alternative to traditional pain medication which is at the root of a drug epidemic in many states, including Alabama.
The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) took to the internet to express their opposing viewpoints, saying, “We Oppose this Amendment. It’s premature to outlaw these potentially beneficial treatments for very serious conditions until research has been done. What we do know is that there have been no deaths attributed to delta-8-thc and cannabis is generally safer than even some over-the-counter medications. The Alabama Senate has the opportunity to regulate delta-8-thc and delta-10-thc in The Compassion Act so it is controlled but still accessible to people who will benefit from it in reducing suffering and improve quality of life,” the group said in a statement.
Chey Garrigan, the President and executive director of the ACIA, told the Alabama Political Reporter, (APR), “We are not opposed to HB2,” Garrigan said. “Tianeptine probably should be banned. What we are opposed to is the criminalization of Delta 8 and Delta 10.”
According to APR, Garrigan said that Alabama court systems and law enforcement are overtaxed dealing with opioid-related drug issues, and that cannabis-related issues should take a backseat, especially hemp products which can help to alleviate addiction and provide safer alternatives to alcohol and opioids.
It appears that much of Alabama agrees, as the state is working now to pass Senate Bill 46, introduced by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence. Steps to legalize marijuana have been adamantly opposed by none other than Orr, but despite his efforts, the Senate has approved the bill and sent it on to the House for review.
Both HB2 and Bill 46 are expected to come to a vote soon. Timing will be an important factor in the process, as the Alabama legislators have as little as two weeks left in this congressional session before an imposed break due to calendar restrictions.
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