Previously, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission had speculated that the date for Alabamans to apply for medical cannabis licenses could be moved up. Now, that same commission says there’s still too much to do first and the date to apply for licenses is being pushed back. Budding Alabama growers and distributors can’t apply for licenses before September 1, 2022, meaning sales won’t happen before 2023.
The commission contends that physician training and establishing rules must come first, in addition to their duty to determine license applications within 60 days. “If you start looking at the timelines for what it’s going to take to get rules and regulations approved, and the growth cycle and the 60 days that people have to get in business after they get the license, it starts adding up,” said John McMillian, the commission’s executive director. The commission is also must create a central database for patient registration by next September.
Rex Vaughn, the vice-chairman of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, said that any legislative action to speed up the timetable “could expose the medical cannabis law to attempts to weaken it.”
“At this point in time, we decided not to ask the Legislature to go back into digging up a legislative bill and opening it back up,” Vaughn said. “We could lose what we’ve got.”
A sponsor of a bill to move up the date, Senator Tim Melson, supports the commission’s decision. He wants to be certain the implementation of the program is handled in a “thoughtful and correct” manner. In a related (yet wildly different in a slew of ways) move, South Dakota’s Governor recently made a public service announcement detailing the state’s unfolding plans “to have the best, the most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country.”
Once official regulations are in place, trained doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis for cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, depression, sickle-cell anemia, HIV/AIDS, and other approved conditions. While the law forbids smoking, vaping, and baking cannabis into food, it will be available in a variety of forms: capsules, gummies, lozenges, patches, suppositories, tablets, topical oils, and nebulizers or oil to be vaporized, though it’s a bit unclear how patients would vaporize their cannabis oils if vape pens are against the law. Recreational use would remain prohibited.
Passing medical marijuana bills (particularly in Southern states, it seems), is no simple task. Just getting to this point was a multi-year effort in Alabama. After failing for two years to pass legislation that would have legalized cannabis treatment, the legislature finally appointed a commission to research the policy.
Alabama legislators had blocked earlier cannabis bills. But after a lengthy and contentious debate in the House, the Alabama legislature approved the medical cannabis bill in May. Within a week of its passing, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law.
Following the bill signing, Governor Ivey said, “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.”