Alabama on Monday became the latest state in the nation and second in the Deep South to legalize a medical cannabis market after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a legalization bill into law.
The Republican governor’s approval of a restrictive medical marijuana market comes nearly two weeks after lawmakers passed the landmark measure.
The signing took place as the Legislature was preparing to adjourn later Monday.
Under the law, rules are to be adopted in time to allow business license applications to start by Sept. 1, 2022.
The Alabama Compassionate Act bans smokable flower, vaping products, candies and baked goods. It also has low dosage limits. But the measure does offer a number of licensing opportunities.
Alabama is the 38th state to legalize MMJ and would have been the third market in the Deep South to do so, but Mississippi’s Supreme Court struck down a voter-approved measure in that state on May 14.
“The victory in Alabama shows elected officials nationwide are finally getting the message that allowing medical cannabis has overwhelming, bipartisan public support,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement Monday.
Whitt Steineker, co-chair of the cannabis practice at Birmingham-based Bradley Law firm, told MJBizDaily via email that “while it may seem to the rest of the country that Alabama is late to the table, many here are actually surprised by how quickly this legislation became law.”
“The next year will be critical as the state endeavors to stand up a safe and effective medical cannabis program,” Steineker added.
“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.”
I’ve signed SB 46 pertaining to medical marijuana. I would like to thank Sen. Tim Melson & Rep. Mike Ball for their hard work over the last few years & their commitment to continue to work on this to ensure we have a productive, safe & responsible operation in AL. #alpolitics pic.twitter.com/2IUBZVEKpI
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) May 17, 2021
Ivey acknowledged in a statement that the issue is “sensitive and emotional” but one that 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.”
Opponents had rallied last week in the state capital, Montgomery, in efforts to persuade Ivey to veto the measure.
But key Republican lawmakers came around in recent weeks, and support was strong among Alabama physicians, according to a survey published in April by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The law provides the following licensing opportunities:
- Up to five vertically integrated licenses.
- Up to four dispensary licenses.
- Up to four processing licenses.
- At least four cultivation licenses.
The vertically integrated licensees could operate up to five dispensaries in different counties. Dispensary license holders could have up to three locations.
The daily THC dosage isn’t allowed to 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. In the latter case, the daily dosage would be capped at 75 milligrams.
At least one lawmaker expressed concern over how the dosage limits could curb MMJ effectiveness.
Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected].