Alabama lawmakers are once again attempting to legalize medical cannabis.  If passed successfully, the bill would give Alabama residents with qualifying medical conditions access to medical marijuana.  This includes patients with:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Cancer-related weight loss
  • Dementia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • HIV/AIDs-related nausea or weight loss
  • Irritable bowel disease (including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Spasticity
  • Terminal illness

Unfortunately, the list of qualifying conditions does not include chronic pain.  The Alabama State Senate approved a similar bill, S.B. 236, back in 2019, however, in the end, the legislation failed to pass without garnering enough support in the House.  In response, the House Health Committee created the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, charging the group with several major goals. These included conducting public hearings on medical cannabis legalization, with input from patients, physicians, and the general public.  In addition, the Commission was directed to make a thorough examination of state and federal law regarding medical cannabis in order to make a final recommendation to be submitted to the Committee along with proposed legislation.  A detailed report by the Medical Cannabis Study Commission was released in December. The new bill, expected in the upcoming legislative session, will attempt to tackle some of the issues highlighted by the Commission.  In response to the opposition efforts towards medical cannabis have received, said Republican State Representative Mike Ball, “Fear and ignorance has been our enemy throughout this. They see the people who abuse it but the folks that can benefit from it are invisible to them.” Earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent a 4-page letter to state lawmakers detailing the rationale behind his opposition to legalization. In his letter, Attorney General Marshall highlights “a significant threshold concern,” saying, “state laws that allow any use of medical or recreational [marijuana], are in direct conflict with duly-enacted and clearly-constitutional federal law. Thus, state marijuana statutes enacted in violation of federal law are damaging to the rule of law itself – a costly precedent.” Moreover, Attorney General Marshall allegedly believes that legalizing medical cannabis could aggravate the ongoing opioid crisis that has killed millions of Americans in the last decade alone.  His letter goes on to say, “I am deeply troubled by parallels that experts have identified between our current opioid crisis and the rapid entrée by many states into legalizing marijuana for medical use…given the foreboding similarities between the origins of today’s opioid crisis and today’s aggressive campaign to legalize marijuana for medical use.” In response to the show of opposition by the State’s Attorney General, supporters of medical marijuana legalization have  The 2019 bill was sponsored by the Commission Chair, Republican State Senator Tim Melson, an outspoken proponent of medical marijuana legalization. According to Senator Melson, regarding the letter written by Attorney General Marshall, “I reached out to him numerous times to talk about it and never heard back. I invited him to the meetings or to meet with me and discuss any headaches. I wanted to minimize the headaches on the AG just like I would on the DAs and law enforcement.”  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey was expected to address the issue in her State of the State Address speech earlier this week.