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  • Christopher D.

Alabama Medical Marijuana: Bill Would Increase Licenses as Litigation Stalls Program

Over two years after Alabama legalized medical marijuana, not a single patient in the state has been able to access it due to ongoing legal battles over the licensing process. Now, a new bill aims to issue more business licenses in an effort to resolve the litigation and finally get the stalled program off the ground. 

The Medical Marijuana Legalization Saga

In May 2021, Alabama became the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor Kay Ivey signed the Darren Wesley 'Ato' Hall Compassion Act into law. The Act established a tightly regulated system for businesses to grow, process, transport and dispense medical marijuana products to qualified patients with one of over a dozen qualifying conditions.

However, getting the program operational has proven to be an arduous legal quagmire. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC), created to oversee the licensing and regulation process, has made three separate attempts to award business licenses - and each round has been derailed by lawsuits from applicants alleging improprieties in scoring.

The Bill to Expand Licenses

Introduced by Senator David Sessions, Senate Bill 276 would significantly expand the number of vertically integrated business licenses that can be issued for cultivation, production, transportation and dispensing of medical marijuana products.

The current law allows the AMCC to issue up to 12 cultivation licenses, 4 processing licenses, 4 transportation licenses and 8 dispensary licenses. But after the five integrated licensees were announced in December, over 100 companies that didn't receive licenses filed legal challenges.

SB 276 would raise the total number of integrated licenses from 5 to 15, with 9 of those new licenses being automatically awarded to certain applicants from the most recent process. This would leave 6 new licenses to be awarded through a revised scoring procedure overseen by an independent administrative law judge rather than the AMCC itself.

Sessions argues the major expansion is necessary to resolve the morass of lawsuits and get medical marijuana to patients who have been waiting years. However, the bill faces major opposition from companies that were awarded licenses as well as doubts it can withstand further legal scrutiny.

The Need for Patient Access

For suffering patients across Alabama, the years of litigation delaying access to legal medical marijuana has been extremely frustrating. Many qualify for a medical card due to debilitating conditions like cancer, Crohn's disease, epilepsy and chronic pain.

"The medical marijuana legislation we passed in 2021 has yet to allow one doctor to prescribe anything for one patient. It is still hung up in court," Senator Sessions lamented while presenting his bill. "This is just legislation trying to see light at the end of the tunnel and get this to patients who need it."

Advocates argue that medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to addictive opioid painkillers and can provide relief for a variety of conditions when other treatments have failed. By further stalling the program's rollout, they say Alabama is denying relief to some of its most vulnerable citizens.

However, opponents of further expanding licenses claim doing so could flood the market, enabling diversion to the illicit market and destroying the businesses awarded licenses after a multi-year vetting process.

"If you look at New York right now, most of the marijuana or marijuana in New York is coming from Oklahoma because they have an oversaturated market," attorney Warren Cobb warned the Senate Agriculture Committee considering the bill. "And that's exactly what this bill would create here."

Path to Resolution Unclear

While Senator Sessions insists his bill is a pragmatic approach to resolve the legal roadblocks, some attorneys representing license applicants argue it goes too far.

"This bill will automatically give licenses to the nine companies who were wrongly awarded licenses last year by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission based purely on politics and favoritism," said Will Somerville, an attorney for plaintiffs suing the AMCC over the licensing process.

Somerville claims several of the companies that would automatically receive licenses under SB 276 did not meet the original statutory requirements like posting a $2 million performance bond. Others are major out-of-state marijuana companies focused on recreational weed, which he argues goes against the legislature's intent.

The bill also takes the unusual step of removing the AMCC entirely from the licensing process for the six remaining new licenses,  placing that authority solely in the hands of an appointed administrative law judge. This raises constitutional concerns about the legislature improperly delegating its authority.

For now, the path forward for finally implementing Alabama's medical marijuana law remains unclear. While Senator Sessions insists "the goal is to try and get the commission out of court," critics argue his bill creates more legal issues than it solves.

As the legislative battle rages on, patients across the state continue to wait for relief. Many may have to continue pursuing certification and medical marijuana access across state lines until the situation in Alabama is resolved, whenever that may be.

Why Getting a Medical Marijuana Card is Important

For Alabama residents suffering from a qualifying debilitating medical condition, obtaining a medical marijuana card would allow legal access to marijuana products once the program is finally operational.

While medical cards are not yet available in Alabama, they are required to purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries in the 37 states with active programs. Cards are issued by state medical marijuana programs to patients whose doctors certify they have an approved condition that could be treated with marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions and symptoms. Not only can it provide relief for cancer patients from harsh side effects of chemotherapy like nausea and loss of appetite, but it can treat chronic pain, muscle spasticity, PTSD, Crohn's disease and severe nausea as well.

By pursuing medical marijuana cards, patients can legally access a safer alternative to addictive opioids and other pharmaceuticals while avoiding the risks and legal issues associated with illicit marijuana purchases.

So while Alabama continues struggling to get its medical marijuana program running, residents with qualifying conditions should explore their options now to prepare for when medical cards become available locally or through reciprocity agreements with other legal medical marijuana states.

Get Ready for Medical Marijuana in Alabama

Based on the current timeline, patients with qualifying conditions should be able to purchase marijuana products from dispensaries in the next few months. Safe and natural relief in Alabama is coming soon!

If you think medical marijuana may benefit you, why not apply? Here at Alabama Marijuana Card, we can help! The best thing you can do is be prepared when the Alabama medical marijuana program launches. 

Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate marijuana doctors, and as soon as the rules for the state’s medical marijuana plan are finalized, our medical staff will be ready to help determine whether or not you qualify.

We’ll make an appointment for you just as soon as we can, and your new doctor will discuss your conditions and whether you qualify for an Alabama Marijuana Card. And if you make your reservation online today, you’ll even save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!


Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.

At Alabama Marijuana Card our mission is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5633, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting the relief you can trust today!

Check out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.

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