Under current Alabama law, anyone using marijuana for medical reasons may be prosecuted. But legislative committees are considering proposals to change Alabama’s criminal law to legalize medical marijuana.
CANNABIS FOR QUALIFYING CONDITIONS
Under the measures under consideration, people with qualifying medical conditions could access cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Patients, caregivers, and businesses that legally supply medical cannabis would be protected from criminal prosecution. An Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission would also be established under the latest bill.
Eligible patients would have to be diagnosed with one of approximately 20 conditions. These include anxiety, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and serious pain. The legislature would possess the sole authority to add more conditions. The House Health Committee recently removed fibromyalgia and menopause from the bill’s qualifying medical conditions.
The legislation allows patients to purchase and possess up to 70 daily dosages of medical cannabis. But the dosage could increase up to 75 mg in some circumstances.
Advocates are concerned about some of the bill’s provisions. Patients with chronic or intractable pain could use medical marijuana only when conventional therapeutic intervention and opiates were contraindicated or ineffective. There is no reciprocity for out- of-state patients.
Patients could purchase capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories, and topical patches. Raw cannabis, smoking and vaping marijuana and cannabis candy or baked goods will remain illegal. Gelatinous cannabis products may not be sugar coated.
Physicians would have to complete four hours of continuing education courses costing up to $500 and pass a test before being eligible to recommend cannabis. They would need to take a refresher coursed every two year.
Cannabis business license application would be accepted beginning Sept. 1, 2022 and processed within 60 days. The state commission would have to approve at least four applicants in the categories of cultivators, processors, and dispensers for the first year of implementation. More could be authorized in later years. Five vertically integrated operators may be authorized.
Medical products would have to have a label indicating that cannabis can cause drowsiness. The still will levy a nine percent gross proceeds tax on medical marijuana sales.
The Alabama Senate Judiciary approved another bill in March decriminalizing possession of yup to two ounces of cannabis. If the bill passes, possession would be punished by a fine up to $250 without any imprisonment.
Marijuana possession and related crimes, however, are still criminal offenses with serious consequences. Enforcement of any changes will have to be scrutinized to assure it is being done correctly and fairly. Attorneys can help anyone charged with drug possession and similar crimes protect their rights.