Alabama Medical Marijuana Program Committee Proposes Pregnancy Test Requirement
The good news: After years of effort from activists and sympathetic lawmakers, you’ll soon be able to get an Alabama Marijuana Card. The bad news: It seems as though there are still some staunch prohibitionists in Montgomery who are determined to do whatever they can to block patient access to medical marijuana and to sabotage the entire program if they can.
We can’t read the minds of these legislators, who claim they’re acting out of concern for the vulnerable, but when one really looks at the facts, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than they are motivated out of prejudice against a much maligned, long stigmatized medicine.
In short, they can say they’re trying to protect women and unborn babies, but what they’re actually doing, whether they realize it or not, is derailing Alabama’s medical cannabis program before it has even opened.
Controversial Medical Marijuana Pregnancy Bill Passes Senate Committee
We told you last month about a bill introduced by OB/GYN and state Senator Larry Stutts that would require “all women of childbearing age” to either test negative on a doctor-administered pregnancy test or show proof from a “certified medical lab” that they are not pregnant before they could purchase medical marijuana.
Well now that legislation has passed out of the Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee on March 31, and has been introduced to the full Senate where it awaits debate.
Bill Would Place Extreme Restrictions on Women Medical Marijuana Patients
We argued last month that the bill was unfair to women medical marijuana patients, but the more we learn about it, the worse it gets.
If SB 324 becomes law, women between 25 and 50 with Alabama Marijuana Cards would have to produce evidence that they were not pregnant before they could purchase their medicine.
Over-the-counter test results would be insufficient according to the bill, which would require a patient “to obtain a negative pregnancy test either from her physician or documentation from a certified medical lab that has been ordered by a physician licensed in Alabama.” Furthermore, the documentation must be obtained within 48 hours of the patient’s purchase.
In a sense, this amounts to an extra tax on medical marijuana, only to be paid by younger women. Patients would need to schedule and pay for a doctor’s appointment and the testing every time they had to buy more medicine, and if the doctor ordered a test from an outside lab, the patient would have to wait for the results before they could treat their conditions.
Bill Could Discourage Participation in Alabama Medical Marijuana Program, Driving Up Costs
Beyond being unfair to women patients, Stutts’ bill could jeopardize overall participation in the state’s medical marijuana program, which would drive up costs for card holders and thus further discourage participation.
As Reason put it, “All these restrictions will probably discourage even many people who could qualify as patients from registering and purchasing through the state's legal system. If Stutts' bill passes, it will become yet another incentive for patients to bypass state dispensaries and keep buying on the black market.”
Those patients who turn to the black market would then be risking legal consequences and replacing their safe, certified medical marijuana with the mystery products one can find on the streets. Thus rather than encouraging healthier use of medical marijuana, Stutts’ bill would make things more dangerous for suffering patients.
Further, by discouraging participation in the state’s medical marijuana market, the cost would be driven higher for patients who remained in the program. Higher costs would then discourage participation even further, leading to a spiral of decreasing participation and increasing costs. We can see an example of that dynamic in Minnesota, where the state’s program was modestly expanded after burdens on cardholders hurt program participation and increased the cost of medicine.
Senator Says Bill is About Protecting the Vulnerable
On a recent episode of the Jeff Poor Show, on Mobile’s FM Talk 1065, Stutts again tried to position his bill as being about protecting women and unborn babies.
“I’m still not in favor of the marijuana bill, but it is in place I think it can be improved and one of the ways it can be improved is to limit pregnant people, limit their availability to it,” Stutts said. “There’s a lot of data about marijuana and pregnancy ... and recommending not to do it. I counsel patients all the time that are pregnant about not taking drugs and not smoking marijuana during their pregnancy, not smoking cigarettes during their pregnancy.”
Senator’s Hypocrisy Implies Another Motivation
A key point here is that Stutts counsels women not to smoke marijuana or cigarettes while pregnant, but he’s only trying to legislate one of those substances.
As we asked last month:
“Where is Stutts’ action on fetal alcohol syndrome? What is he doing about women who smoke tobacco during pregnancy, even though it ‘increases the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lip (and) sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?’ The consequences of malnutrition during pregnancy are equally well-known and have equal potential for tragedy, and yet once again the Senator has taken no action.
When a senator says legislation is about protecting the vulnerable, but he does nothing to protect them from similar threats caused by alcohol, tobacco, and Twinkies, one has to ask if there is some ulterior motive. Last month, we concluded that Stutts’ motivation was actually his bias against medical marijuana, a bias that is well documented.
Stutts Has a Long, Vocal History of Opposing Medical Marijuana
Stutts has long opposed medical marijuana and was perhaps its most vocal critic in the Senate. Upon passage of SB 46, the bill that created Alabama’s medical marijuana market, Stutts said:
“I truly feel this is transformational for our state. This is a first step toward more widespread use and frankly I think this is a step towards recreational. Overall, this is going to make this more readily available in our state and widespread. This tells teenagers that this is safe, and this is medical, and I don’t believe that is true. I think that the bottom line is that it is marijuana, and we are legitimizing it. The list of qualifying conditions is so broad that everyone in this room could qualify for a medical cannabis card.”
So the Senator objected to the passage because he feared it would lead to recreational use being legalized in the state, because it sends a bad message to teens, and because it legitimizes a drug he sees as being without medicinal value, despite abundant scientific evidence to the contrary.
One thing he didn’t mention? His fear of how the law would affect pregnant women and their fetuses. It’s almost as though his blind hatred of the medicine came first, and his justification for his opposition came second. And when one considers that his bill would likely undermine Alabama’s medical marijuana market, it seems all the clearer that Senator Stutts is motivated by his outdated, unjustified bias against medical marijuana, not by his desire to protect suffering patients who are desperate for relief.
Don’t Let Hypocritical Politicians Keep You From Finding Relief
Alabama, you fought long and hard to secure the right to find relief from your qualifying conditions with medical marijuana. Now that the day is almost here when you’ll be able to exercise that right, don’t let the hypocrisy of backwards politicians deny you the relief you need and deserve.
First, let your representatives know that you want them to protect and nurture our nascent medical marijuana program, not kneecap it before it’s even open. Second, reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate cannabis doctors.
We’ll make an appointment for you just as soon as we’re cleared to, and you 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 helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce 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 relief you can trust today!
Check outAlabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.