Updated on July 28, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As legislation changes in Alabama, check back to this section for information about how those legislative changes will affect the prospect of medical marijuana in Alabama.
The Alabama medical marijuana program changed somewhat in 2016 when state legislators passed a law (known as “Leni’s Law”) that decriminalized the cannabis extract known as cannabidiol, or CBD. Patients suffering from a range of chronic and debilitating medical conditions were allowed access to the extract and were allowed to legally possess it. The form of CBD allowed in the state is extremely low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in weed. CBD oil must contain no more than three percent THC to be legal in Alabama.
Despite not being a legal medical marijuana state, on April 01, 2014, the State of Alabama passed “Carly’s Law,” when Senate Bill 174 was signed into legislation by the Alabama Governor, Robert Bentley, effectively allowing for an affirmative defense against prosecution for the use of the cannabis cannabinoid “CBD” — a.k.a Cannabidiol — by patients diagnosed with a debilitating epileptic condition.
Please be advised that as per SB 174, “a prescription for the possession or use of cannabidiol (CBD) as authorized by this act shall be provided exclusively by the UAB [University of Alabama at Birmingham] Department for a debilitating epileptic condition.”
Additionally, the law calls for the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to establish a “research and development study” in order to examine the possible medical uses and benefits of CBD treatment on individuals suffering from certain seizure-related conditions.
For more information on how to access CBD cannabis oil in Alabama, kindly contact the University of Alabama at Birmingham directly.
To be notified when the State of Alabama passes legislature becoming a legal medical marijuana state, please sign up for the Alabama waitlist.
Unfortunately, even though CBD possession is legal in Alabama, obtaining the drug is extremely difficult because there are no provisions for either distribution or cultivation. The only benefit of the Alabama medical marijuana law is that it decriminalizes possession. Patients have to go to another state to find CBD, and then they risk being caught transporting it over state lines — a federal crime.
The U.S. government considers any extract derived from the cannabis plant to be a Schedule I controlled substance, so people bringing CBD oil into Alabama could conceivably risk arrest by federal agents — even though they have a legitimate, medical reason for possessing it.
The 2014 law called for the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to establish a “research and development study” in order to examine the possible medical uses and benefits of CBD treatment on individuals suffering from certain seizure-related conditions.
Early results from the study were encouraging. In December 2016, UAB officials presented their findings at a meeting of the American Epilepsy Society. Their research showed that 50 percent of patients who participated saw “sustained improvement” regarding control of their seizures after using CBD.
A total of 81 patients (42 children, 39 adults) participated in the study, which began in April 2015. To qualify, participants had to have suffered at least four seizures each month. They were treated with CBD oil over a period of a month, and during that time, nearly 70 percent said they had experienced at least a 25 percent reduction in the number of seizures they were experiencing. More than half of participants said they had more than a 50 percent reduction in seizures. Over the course of the study, nine percent said they didn’t suffer any seizures at all.
The researchers also found that CBD oil helped improve mood and cognition, but they pointed out that different patients respond in different ways to the extract. Optimal doses can also vary substantially — in some cases, the researchers said, dosages outside the optimal range might not reduce seizure frequency. In fact, the number of seizures could possibly even increase. Further study is needed to determine why CBD is beneficial for some epilepsy sufferers but not for others.
Alabama became the 37th state (as of May 18th, 2021) in America to legalize medical marijuana for patients. There are sixteen (16) qualifying health conditions accepted, allowing patients to get their medical card.
A physician health evaluation is required. That means scheduling a doctor’s visit to review your health history. Physicians will be looking at your current symptoms, medication, and overall health to determine if cannabis is a safe option for you.
Once you have received a letter of referral or recommendation from a licensed physician, the next step is to apply to become a registered patient. This process will be done online. You will need to provide a copy of your government-issued photo ID and proof of residency (a utility bill or government letter addressed to you at your home in Alabama).
As the medical cannabis program in Alabama is still being developed, it is not known if the state will allow patients to immediately download and print a temporary medical card. The state has confirmed that patients will receive a medical card in the mail to use at dispensaries.
When the Alabama Senate was provided SB 46 to legalize medical marijuana, lawmakers did not approve the first iteration of the legislation. Patients feared that meant new MMJ laws would not be passed in 2021. Both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Senate moved quickly to amend the legislation.
On May 17, 2021, after receiving a 20-10 vote in favor of the medical marijuana laws in the Senate, SB 46 was passed. Governor Kay Ivey signed, making medical cannabis a new and legal therapeutic option for Alabama patients.
Read more on the history and legislative fight to bring medical marijuana to patients: “Alabama MMJ Passes House of Representatives.”
Alabama took a compassionate and inclusive approach with a broad list of qualifying health conditions, unlike other states. This means that more patients with chronic health problems or rare diseases will be eligible for an Alabama medical card.
In order to apply to become a registered patient in the Alabama medical marijuana program, you must be diagnosed with at least one (1) of the following health conditions:
The last qualifying health notation in the new Alabama medical marijuana program provides flexibility for physicians. Patients can have a variety of different needs when it comes to chronic pain management. And doctors in Alabama can refer a patient for therapeutic cannabis if other types of pain management treatments have not worked. This includes prescription opioid medications.
The Alabama Compassionate Act Bill summary states that caregivers must assist any patient under the age of nineteen (19) years. Minors are not permitted to register as patients to receive medical marijuana in Alabama unless a caregiver assists them.
A registered caregiver with the Alabama medical marijuana program must be twenty-one (21) years of age or older. They must be legal guardians or care providers for the patient (family member). Caregivers can also be a practitioner in a long-term care facility.
The state may limit how many patients a caregiver can assist in the future but hasn’t done so yet.
Cannabis products with a maximum potency of 50 milligrams of THC will be permitted for adults aged twenty-one and older, per the current legislation. However, physicians can refer patients on an as-needed basis for maximum potency of 70 milligrams of THC. This will allow patients in end-of-life circumstances to access more potent cannabis as required for compassionate care.
The following products will be available in medical marijuana dispensaries in Alabama: Oral tablets or easy-swallow capsules, Drops or tinctures (sublingual uptake), Topical preparations (oil, cream, etc.), Transdermal (skin) patch, Vaporizing oil (but only for nebulizer or inhalers, not smokable), Edibles (limited to gummy cubes or lozenges)
Smokable whole flower cannabis was not legalized and will not be available. Vape oil cartridges will not be available for patients unless administered by a tabletop vaporizer or nebulizer.
Lawmakers in the state of Alabama are opposed to the recreational use of cannabis. So, patients will not have the option of purchasing cannabis legally at any location other than a medical dispensary.
The Alabama Medical Marijuana Program will issue medical cards for patients. Each application is individually reviewed and checked to make sure a physician referral was received.
Once you have successfully received your medical card, the next step is to visit a licensed dispensary. Current legislation states that twelve (12) dispensary licenses are granted (to start) in Alabama.
Patients with one or more diagnosed qualifying health conditions, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, may qualify for a medical card in Alabama. Any patient who is under the age of nineteen years will require a registered caregiver. An adult parent or legal guardian to assist with the administration of medical marijuana.
Any medical cardholder under nineteen (19) years will require an adult caregiver to purchase and pick up medical cannabis supplies or preparations from a dispensary. Minors may not be administered doses of cannabis that exceed a potency of 3% THC.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed SB 46, which legalized medical cannabis on May 17, 2021. Alabama has supported the ‘right to try’ for patients living with chronic diseases and debilitating symptoms.
When dispensaries open in September 2022, each sale of medical cannabis will be taxed at a rate of 9%. This tax rate is stated at the time of writing (June 29, 2021) and may change as the cannabis regulatory committees finalize licensure and financial details for the MMJ program.
The Alabama medical marijuana program will allocate 60% of net revenues to a state general fund for diversity, education, and healthcare service funding. Another 30% of the payments will be allocated to medical cannabis health research and clinical studies in the state of Alabama.
Even though medical marijuana was legalized on May 17, 2021, patients will not be able to register until 2022. Deadlines have been established for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. Members to the commission will be finalized on July 1, 2021.
In SB 46, the following deadlines were created to allow for the rollout of medical cards and marijuana in Alabama.
Would you like to be notified when patients can apply for an Alabama medical card? Join our waiting list, and we will contact you and provide you with a list of physicians who can help you apply for your medical card.
Cannabis was first banned in Alabama in 1931. Many states moved to prohibit cannabis before the federal government passed The Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, which banned marijuana nationally.
In 2012, House Representative Koven Brown (R) introduced “The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act,” which would grant the ‘right to try’ to patients with severe health conditions. That iteration of medical cannabis legislation named twenty-four (24) qualifying health conditions.
The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act was modified and reintroduced three years later (2015) as Senate Bill 326 by Senator Bobby Singleton. It failed to reach the Senate floor because of opposition from the Senate Rules Committee, led by Jabo Waggoner.
Senate Bill 149 was also introduced by Senator Bobby Singleton (D), and it moved to decriminalize cannabis in Alabama. The bill was approved by the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee (6-3). Still, it was tabled ‘indefinitely.’ If Bill 149 had passed, it would have made possession of >2 ounces of cannabis a $250 fine, with no misdemeanor or felony charge. Decriminalization is a priority for Alabama, as the state addresses social equity related to incarceration rates of POCs (persons of color).
Governor Kay Ivey signed Alabama Senate Bill 46 into law on May 17, 2021. This legalized medical marijuana in Alabama. However, the bill is also known as the “Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act.”
When Senate Bill 46 was signed, House Representative Laura Hall (D) was present. She was the second to sponsor a medical marijuana bill in Alabama more than ten years ago. Bill 46 is named after her son, who died from AIDs without options for compassionate care.