Alabama: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Access Measure into Law

Montgomery, AL: Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation into law this week providing authorized patients with state-regulated access to medical cannabis. 

Senate Bill 46, a/k/a The Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, permits state-registered patients to possess up to “70 daily dosages” of medical cannabis at one time. Doses of authorized cannabis products will be capped at a maximum of 50 milligrams for the first 90 days. Doctors may raise this dosage to 75 milligrams after 90 days. Patients are not permitted access to cannabis flower material or cannabis-infused edible products under the law. Rather, medical cannabis formulations need to be in the form of: “tablets, capsules, tinctures, or gel cubes for oral use; gels, oils or creams for topical use, or suppositories, transdermal patches, nebulizers, or liquids or oils for use in an inhaler.” Almost no other state imposes similar restrictions on the types of products available.

To qualify 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, medical cannabis products are not a first-line option for patients, as physicians will only be able to make recommendations “after documentation indicates that conventional medical treatment or therapy has failed.” Those under 18 would be limited to low-THC (no more than 3 percent) products.

The bill also includes a nine percent tax on medical cannabis sales. Business licensing applications are expected to be available by the fall of 2022. Licensing decisions will be determined by the newly established Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

Commenting on the passage of the law, NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said, “This measure is an important first step for Alabamans. As written, this program is limited in its ability to sufficiently address the real-world needs of patients — many of whom receive maximum benefit from inhaling cannabis flower rather than oral formulations, which are often far slower acting and more variable in their effects. Furthermore, we reject the notion that cannabis should be a treatment of ‘last resort.’ That said, this law begins the process of providing Alabamans, for the first time, with a safe, legal, and consistent source of medicine. In the coming months and years, we anticipate and hope that lawmakers will continue to expand this access in a manner that puts patients’ interest first.”

The new law took effect upon signing.

For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Manager.