Alabama’s governor signed a new bill into law, H.B. 315/SJR 34. This bill, known as “The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patient” Access Act, sets reasonable limitations on who may obtain marijuana for medical use, who may legally purchase marijuana, and what types of marijuana may be purchased.
After years of debate, and an incredibly close vote in the state legislature, a new law limiting the use of medical marijuana to sufferers of certain illnesses was approved. The law will go into effect beginning on July 1st, and will restrict the use of cannabis as a treatment for severe forms of epilepsy and terminal illnesses.
In May, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a law that gives cannabis patients licensed by the state regulated access to some very limited forms of medicinal cannabis. Under the new law, patients cannot buy cannabis flowers or cannabis-infused edibles. Senate Bill 46, also known as the Darren Wesley Ato Hall Compassionate Care Act, allows registered patients in the state to possess up to 70 daily doses of medical cannabis at a time. The dosage of approved cannabis products is limited to a maximum of 50 milligrams for the first 90 days. After 90 days, doctors can increase this dose to 75 milligrams. These medical cannabis formulations must be in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures or gel blocks for oral use; gels, oils or creams for external use; or suppositories, transdermal patches, nebulisers, liquid or oil for inhalation. Almost no other state has similar restrictions on the types of products available.
Restrictions on medical conditions, forms of cannabis
To participate in the program, patients must be diagnosed with one of 15 eligible conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, depression, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Under the law, medicinal cannabis drugs are not first-line treatments for patients, because doctors may only make recommendations after conventional medical treatment or therapy has been shown to have failed. Persons under the age of 18 will be restricted to products with low THC content (no more than three percent). The bill also imposes a nine percent tax on the sale of medicinal cannabis. Applications for operating licenses are expected to be available in the fall of 2022. Decisions on licensing will be made by the newly created Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. Commenting on the passage of the bill, Carly Wolf, NORML’s national policy director, said: This is an important first step for the people of Alabama. As such, this program is limited in its ability to adequately address the real needs of patients – many of whom derive maximum benefit from inhaling cannabis flowers rather than oral medications, whose effects are often much slower and more variable. We also reject the idea that cannabis should be a last resort. Nevertheless, this bill provides Alabama residents with a safe, legal, and permanent source of medication for the first time. We expect and hope that legislators will continue to expand this access in the months and years ahead, and that they will do so in a way that puts the interests of patients first. The new law has been in effect since it was signed. For more information, please contact Carly Wolfe, NORML’s National Policy Officer.