There was an era in America’s history referred to as the “Gold Rush”. It was a time of significant industrial development, and today, another rush is happening. It is the ‘cannabis rush’ a reality that has led to many states legalizing cannabis as they unravel its numerous benefits, positive impact, and advantages.
On Monday 17th May 2021, Alabama became the 36th state to legalize cannabis, with its Governor Kay Ivey signing the state’s medical cannabis bill. Legalizing cannabis in any state is always a combined effort between the state’s legislature and executive. Hence the reason the Governor thanked Senator Tim Melson and Rep. Mike Ball for championing the cannabis cause for many years.
The Governor recognizes that cannabis research has evolved, and it is essential to consistently find ways to ensure the state has responsible and safe cannabis operations.
The bill was approved and passed by the Alabama Legislature by a 68-34 vote makes marijuana legal for medical treatment of 10 different conditions and requires a doctor to sign off that the patient qualifies for marijuana treatment.
Support for the marijuana bill increased in 2021, making it one of the few bills passed with bipartisan support by a two-to-one margin. The willingness of the Alabama legislature to encourage its residents to try medical marijuana for their health conditions shows the extent of progress cannabis has made in American states.
Alabama officials have also stated that it will take more than a year before medical marijuana products will be available in the state. They are aiming for an intrastate cannabis system that will ensure a free but regulated flow of cannabis within the state.
This new bill also enabled the creation of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which will oversee how marijuana is grown and used in the state to avoid the propensity for abuse. The commission will also ensure the residents of Alabama sticks to the tenants of the bill, which includes the ban on cannabis food products such as cookies and candies.
The commission is also saddled with issuing licenses to industries and individuals who cultivate, process, transport, test, and distribute cannabis. They will also ensure the issuance of permits for testing laboratories and dispensaries.
A focus on patients
With the legalization law now in practice, patients in Alabama with several “Approved” conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, Tourette’s syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease can get cannabis for treatment.
Although the medical aspect is still a very sensitive one, the state of Alabama has pledged its support to continue to study cannabis and see how it will benefit their medical community. The Governor and leadership of Alabama are also interested in knowing how cannabis can help treat chronic illnesses.
They also want to know how cannabis can improve people’s quality of life, especially those in their final days. The state-approved cannabis for legalization because of the potentials marijuana has to boost several sectors cutting across health, wellness, skincare, and recreational industries.
The state also passed various patient and operators protections that shield them from criminal and civil penalties. In some states where cannabis is legalized, some people still deal with the stigma of using weed, and some still get arrested.
However, Alabama has ensured the protection of minority people who will use cannabis with this new law. At the same time, patients will no longer be denied organ transplants and medical care because of their cannabis use.
Employers in Alabama can no longer prohibit the consumption of cannabis within the workplace, thus putting a stop to drug testing before employment.
The Alabama cannabis laws are so extensive and diversified that minors under the age of 19 will require a caregiver and will not be allowed to use cannabis medication above 3 in THC levels.
The cannabis operators in Alabama now have the opportunity to get a license under the new law. The licenses that will be issued includes permission for:
The state of Alabama also reinstated that every dispensary license holder is allowed to have up to three locations in several countries. In contrast, the state considers adding more licenses at patient’s demands.
The Alabama lawmakers also made provision for the approval of licenses for up to five integrated facilities, allowing for vertical integration. The license holders now have the authority to open up to five sites in various countries and more permits to be issued if the cannabis market requires it.
Alabama passed other clauses that pertain to cannabis residency and operations with social equity included in the new bill. The social equity bill has a section which states that one-fourth or one-fifth of the permits must be granted to organizations owned by at least 51% of African Americans, Hispanic, Native Americans, and Asians (depending on the type of license obtained).
The move to consider these minority racial groups is in tandem with the Governor’s wishes to have a more inclusive and diversified cannabis market. The history of cannabis in most states is full of stories entailing the victimization of minority races in America. Alabama seeks to get its legalization right to avoid wrongful targeting of minorities and ensure a level playing field for all minorities.
The Governor also mandated that all cannabis marketplaces should adopt the rules applicable to them by September 2022. The application process for all businesses and patients should also commence at the same time.
The state of Alabama has come a long way with the legalization of cannabis, which is why the Governor referred to it as a “Sensitive and emotional issue.” However, they eventually came together with partisanship to make cannabis legal as they observed its medicinal benefits for patients.
Although Alabama is the 36th state in America to legalize cannabis, it will most likely not be the last state. Like the gold rush that happened many years ago, the cannabis rush moves from one state in America to another.