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Alabama Senate Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

by Sarah Cawthon February 27, 2020

The Alabama Senate Judiciary committee approved a bill last week that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in the state by a vote of 8-1, inspiring commendation from the audience. The bill will now go to the Senate floor for a full vote before being sent to the state’s House of Representatives.

If passed, the bill would allow patients with one or more qualifying medical conditions to receive a recommendation from physicians to use medical cannabis products to help ease symptoms. The bill would be comprised of fifteen qualifying conditions including anxiety, cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the bill, medical cannabis would be legal in certain formulations including pills, gummies, oils and topicals such as patches, gels and creams. However, medical cannabis that can be smoked or vaped would still be considered illegal in the state. Patients would be able to purchase up to a 70-day supply at a time.

Last year, a similar measure was passed by the Senate, but failed to generate enough support in the House, where it ultimately stalled. In response, the Alabama Legislature formed the Medical Cannabis Study Commission to further examine medical cannabis for the state. The commission then, in December 2019, issued a recommendation to implement a medial cannabis program in the state of Alabama.

“This bill is not about getting high,” said Dr. Alan Shackleford, a world renown medical physician and member of the commission. “This bill is about getting well.” 

While it’s not clear how the House will approach the bill if it advances to the chamber, the speaker of the House, Mac McCutcheon, said that he’s “in a wait and see mode”. The state’s attorney general, however, expressed his opposition to the legislation in a letter sent to lawmakers.

Prior to the vote, the committee heard from a series of proponents and opponents, including parents who shared anecdotes about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for their children. Interest in the reform move was so strong that an overflow crowd has to be moved to a separate hearing room.

The current bill has several amendments including shielding physicians from liability for recommending medical cannabis and clarifying that employees will be ineligible for workers compensation for accidents caused by intoxication from medical cannabis.  Additionally, the bill would not require patients to exhaust all other traditional treatment options before accessing medical cannabis.

The proposal would establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for overseeing a patient registry database, issuing medical cannabis cards and approving licenses for six license types including: dispensary, cultivation, processor, secure transporter, state testing laboratory and integrated facility. There would be a cap of 32 dispensaries allowed in the state.

More details regarding licensing and application fees will be released once the legislation has passed.

There would be a number of restrictions under the bill regarding advertising, and would require seed-to-sale tracking for marijuana products, set packaging and labeling requirements and impose criminal background checks for licensed facility employees.

A nine percent tax would be imposed on the gross profits from the sale of medical cannabis at cannabis dispensaries. A portion of the proceeds would go toward creating a new Consortium for Medical Cannabis Research, which would provide grants to study the plant.

Additionally, any county or municipality are able to ban the processing, testing or dispensing of medial cannabis within its jurisdiction if it is authorized by a two-thirds vote of the local governing body before July 31, 2020. The local governing body will need to notify the commission and the department within 10 days of a vote in favor of a ban.

Prepare for Alabama Marijuana Business Opportunities

With only a 32 dispensary licenses available in the state, the applications process will be incredibly competitive. To get ahead of the competition and begin preparing for future marijuana business opportunities in Alabama, our Alabama Application and Guide Checklist includes a step-by-step checklist of all action items needed to complete and establish a marijuana business.

The guide provides a step-by-step checklist of over 100 action items to complete prior to submitting your application for a marijuana business license. It covers topics from real estate and financial planning to staffing and team building activities.