Alabama Patients Face Extended Wait For Medical Cannabis

It looks like patients in Alabama will have a long wait to be able to access medical cannabis in their state.

The situation in Alabama up to this point:

In 2014, very limited access was granted under Carly’s Law, allowing the University of Alabama at Birmingham to make CBD oil available to children with debilitating seizures — but only as part of a clinical trial. Then, in 2016, “Leni’s Law” came into effect, offering patients possessing CBD a positive defense to treat a limited number of debilitating conditions.

This was followed by several failed attempts to legalize medicinal cannabis more widely in the state.

But on February 24, 2021, the Alabama Senate approved Senate Bill 46 by a vote of 20 to 10. The House of Representatives then approved a streamlined version of SB 46 on May 6, 2021. The Senate approved these changes and Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 17, 2021.

Under the legislation, regulated access to medicinal cannabis based on physician recommendation will be available to patients with qualifying conditions. Smoking, vaping, and edible forms of medical marijuana are off the menu, but lozenges, patches, oils, and capsules are allowed.

It’s a big improvement, but it’s now been over a year and still none of these products are available in the state and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Approval for plants, cultivation, processing, transport and testing can only be applied for at the beginning of September.

Fall 2023 is likely the earliest product will be available in the state, according to the head of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC). And that’s an optimistic estimate. AMCC executive director John McMillan said this could drag on until 2024 due to the complexity of rolling out the state’s seed-to-sale approach.

“There are still a number of variables and unknowns out there that we need to contend with,” Mr. McMillan said in a comment to Alabama.com. “I’m convinced I was overly optimistic hoping we could get something going sooner.”