Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana and Alabama may soon become the 34th. Proposed legislation, which mirrors “compassionate care” programs in other states, is sponsored by Republican state Senator Tim Melson and has already passed the state’s judiciary committee. If approved by the Alabama House and Senate, fifteen conditions would meet the criteria for access to doctor-supervised medical marijuana—these include anxiety, autism, cancer, epilepsy, nausea, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill would also allow patients whose medical needs don’t fall under the established categories to make a special petition for access.
Movement on the issue began in 2019 when Sen. Melson introduced a medical marijuana bill that passed the state Senate but failed to gain any traction in the House. Legislators then commissioned a working group of lawmakers, lawyers, and doctors who were tasked with assessing the possible effects of a medical program. The current bill, also sponsored by Melson, resulted from the working group’s findings.
While medical marijuana products that are smoked or vaped wouldn’t be allowed under the current bill, Alabama patients with a doctor’s recommendation could legally access marijuana pills, oils, edibles, transdermal patches, and other topicals.
The bill would also establish a nine percent tax on medical marijuana, a seed-to-sale tracking system, a research consortium, and a fund to administer the program.
Many people seeking medical marijuana in prohibition states face a stark choice: relocate to legally access their (or their child’s) medicine, or go without a potentially life-saving therapy. But others are choosing instead to advocate for their rights. In Alabama, pro-marijuana advocates, including parents of children with epilepsy, made their voices heard.
If approved by Alabama lawmakers and signed by Governor Kay Ivey, the bill could become law later this year.