The South is no longer a desert for those seeking relief from ailments; recently, medical cannabis advocates of Alabama experienced hard-earned success when Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that allows a medical marijuana market, albeit a restrictive one. Under the law, rules are to be adopted in time to allow business license applications to start by September 1, 2022. Once this timeframe passes, plants can be cultivated, meaning Alabama medical cannabis will likely first be available for purchase in early 2023. Thanks to medical cannabis advocates of Alabama, it looks like Alabama is getting cannabis within the next year!
Is Alabama Getting Medical Cannabis?
Labeled as the Alabama Compassionate Act, certain avenues of consumption are currently banned including smokable flower, vaping products, baked goods and candies. The allowable dosage limits are considered low; daily THC dosage may not exceed 50 milligrams, except in the case of terminal illness or if a higher dosage is deemed medically appropriate by a doctor after 90 days of care. If a higher dose is approved by a doctor, then the daily dosage is capped at 75 milligrams. A limit of 3% THC maximum potency is set for minors. Medical cannabis patients in Alabama will be allowed to purchase up to 60 days’ worth of cannabis products at a time and legally possess up to 70 days’ worth, per the Medical Cannabis Commission.
As of now, 15 conditions and symptoms permit physicians to recommend medical cannabis products to patients: autism spectrum disorder; cancer-related cachexia, nausea or vomiting, weight loss or chronic pain; Crohn’s disease; depression; epilepsy or a condition causing seizures; HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss; panic disorder; Parkinson’s disease; persistent nausea that is not significantly responsive to traditional treatment, except for nausea related to pregnancy, cannabis-induced cyclic vomiting syndrome or cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); sickle cell anemia; spasticity associated with a motor neuron disease including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or a spinal cord injury; terminal illness; Tourette’s Syndrome, and chronic pain for which conventional therapies and opiates should not be used or are ineffective. A training program will also be required of doctors interested in pursuing this treatment for their patients.
The Board of Medical Examiners said the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission “is addressing other aspects of the new law, such as the licensing of cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries.” The board will accept “submissions of data, views or arguments concerning the proposed rules…until January 4, 2022,” at which time “the public comment period will be closed, and the Board will consider the comments received and take further action at a subsequent meeting.”
“Patients should be prepared to wait a little longer before they will be able to obtain medical cannabis, but those interested in participating in the industry – be it growing, processing, testing, dispensing or all of the above – should get started right away.” Gov. Ivey acknowledged in a statement the issue is “sensitive and emotional” but one which has been thoroughly examined, according to the Associated Press. “On the state level,” the governor said, “we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
Licenses will have a $2500 non-refundable application fee. The law provides the following licensing opportunities during the initial setup:
- Up to five vertically integrated licenses. License holders could operate up to five dispensaries in different counties.
- Up to four dispensary licenses. Dispensary license holders could have up to three locations.
- Up to four processing licenses.
- At least four cultivation licenses, which will be regulated by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will regulate the cultivators.
Alabama Medical Cannabis and Advocates
As Alabama began an industrial hemp growing program in 2019, the 200 growers still in business are the most likely candidates for becoming the state’s first medical cannabis growers. Their experiences with climate challenges and theft are helpful in establishing initial successful crops in which the growth time for cannabis and hemp are similar, roughly 90 to 110 days. As Alabama passes medical cannabis, one stipulation for growers is tied to residency: as the law currently reads, cultivators are required to have lived in the state of Alabama for at least 15 years continuously.
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