(MJBizDaily takes a weekly look at marijuana legalization and reform efforts across the U.S. while state legislatures are in session.)
Alabama is poised to become the 39th state in the nation to legalize a medical cannabis market after lawmakers there passed a landmark but restrictive measure last week.
The governor must now decide whether to sign the bill into law.
In Kansas, House lawmakers passed a highly regulated medical marijuana measure last week as well, but a Senate leader said he doesn’t plan on taking up the bill in this year’s session.
In Minnesota, House lawmakers held a 12th and final public hearing on an adult-use measure, with a full House vote expected as soon as this week.
With the session scheduled to adjourn on May 17, lawmakers are running out of time and the Senate majority leader has been resistant to considering the bill this year.
Medical marijuana legalization in Alabama is now in the hands of Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican.
Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for the governor, told the Associated Press that Ivey is sensitive to how emotional the issue is and “will give it the diligence it deserves.”
The House was seen as the biggest hurdle, but that chamber ultimately passed the bill by a large margin of 68-34 after hours of debate and a filibuster that delayed the vote by two days.
The Alabama Compassionate Act, Senate Bill 46, provides:
- 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.
But products and dosages are highly restrictive.
Smokable flower, vaping products, candies and baked goods would be prohibited.
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 about the program’s effectiveness given such daily dosage limits.
The state House passed a restrictive medical marijuana bill last week by a margin of 79-42, sending it to the Senate.
But Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, told reporters that the House-amended Senate Bill 158 is coming too late in the session to be carefully considered. The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn this week.
“I can’t imagine we’d take the subject matter up this year,” he said. “It would be alive for next year, obviously.”
Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, hasn’t yet given up on the legislation.
She called MMJ legalization a “commonsense, broadly popular policy that would improve Kansas’ overall health and economy while we recover from COVID-19 and beyond.”
Under the legislation, smoking and vaping products would be prohibited, as would home cultivation.
The legislation would not impose dispensary caps, but individual counties would be able to opt out of the program.
In addition, a patient must have had a relationship with a doctor for at least six months before being recommended to use medical marijuana.
Adult-use legislation, HF 600, has undergone 12 public hearings, including a final one Friday, and the 12 House committees have advanced the bill.
Now the measure is ready for a full House vote as soon as this week.
“The next step is to schedule a vote on the House floor before the Legislature’s May 17th constitutional adjournment,” Matt Roznowski, media coordinator for the House’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, wrote in an email to reporters on May 7.
The state Senate, which Republicans control by one scant vote, reportedly isn’t likely to even hear the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said the Republican caucus is strongly opposed to adult-use legalization, making it unlikely that legislation will pass this year.
In February, Gazelka issued this statement: “We are focused on the Minnesota priorities that balance the budget without raising taxes, safely reopen schools and businesses to recover our economy, and support families. I would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority.”
Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected].