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  • D. H. Reilly

Is Medical Marijuana Coming to Alabama in 2022?

We have good news! If you get an Alabama Marijuana Card, soon you’ll be able to get medical marijuana in the Yellowhammer State. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely it will be as soon as 2022.

Why the Delay for Medical Marijuana in Alabama?

It’s surprising that medical marijuana won’t be available here sooner, since the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has meet weekly since August to create the infrastructure needed to operate a medical marijuana market.

The commission can work as diligently and productively as humanly possible, but their hands are tied on getting medical marijuana to Alabama in 2022. They’d have to outwork Mother Nature to do it.

Establishing a Medical Marijuana Market Takes Time

Establishing a medical marijuana market isn’t as hard as getting a medical marijuana bill passed, but there is still an awful lot of work to do before a market can open. Crossing all those t’s and dotting all those i’s is partly why the AMCC can’t get medical marijuana here as soon as patients would like.

AMCC Must Create Patient Registry by September 1, 2022

Prominent on the AMCC’s to-do list is the creation of a patient registry. That sounds simple enough, but the law is pretty demanding as to what the Alabama Medical Cannabis Patient Registry System (AMCPRS) must include.

By September 1, 2022, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) must have implemented a statewide database of authorized medical marijuana users and be ready to accept and process patient applications.

In addition to the names of all patients who have been awarded marijuana cards, the database must also include their physicians’ names, their qualifying conditions, and the names of their registered caregivers, if any. Registered caregivers are individuals who 1) a patient has selected to help them acquire and administer their medical marijuana and 2) have applied for and been granted approval to act as a registered caregiver.

The database will also track patients’ purchases to ensure they only purchase the amount of medical marijuana that they are authorized to buy. Retail purchases will also be included in the database, so the state can track all marijuana produced and sold in the state from cultivators to retailers to patients. The law calls this the “seed to sale” record of marijuana production.

Speaking of marijuana seeds, the second big task the AMCC is working on is processing grower applications.

By September 1, 2022, AMCC Must be Ready to Process Applications from Growers

There is no point in issuing Alabama Marijuana Cards if no one is growing any marijuana, so by September 1, 2022, the AMCC must establish the rules governing the growth of marijuana, be ready to accept and process applications from would-be growers, and be prepared to issue licenses to who they accept.

SB 46, the law legalizing medical marijuana here, already laid out some of the rules growers will have to follow. The AMCC’s regulatory framework must “ensure the health, safety, and security of the public and the integrity of medical cannabis facility operations.”

The AMCC has to establish qualifications and restrictions on employees of growth facilities, create an ongoing on-site inspection process, develop security requirements for growth facilities, establish rules for distributing products, regulate the marketing and advertising of growth facilities, and create procedures for renewing, revoking, and suspending licenses.

In addition to whatever other rules the AMCC establishes, cultivators will need to have a minimum of two million dollars in liability and casualty insurance.

There are several restrictions and regulations imposed upon growers, but one last one is particularly relevant to medical marijuana patients: Cultivators must be in compliance with whatever seed-to-sale system the AMCC creates.

AMCC Must Be Ready to License Dispensaries by September 1, 2022

Finally, SB 46 requires the AMCC to establish protocols for accepting and processing applications from would-be dispensaries by the 9/1/2022 deadline.

As with growers, there are certain rules the AMCC must impose upon retailers.

Number of Dispensaries Allowed in Alabama

The commission may grant no more than four dispensary licenses, and each licensee is allowed to operate up to three dispensary locations as long as each is located in a different county.

After the medical marijuana market has been up and running for a year, the AMCC may allow dispensaries to open additional locations if the Commission deems the patient pool is large enough to warrant it.

Alabama Marijuana Dispensary Location and Security

The AMCC is also required to regulate dispensary locations, with none operating within 1,000 feet of a school, day care, or child care facility.

The Commission must oversee dispensary security, continuously running cameras at each entry and keeping surveillance tapes for a minimum of 60 days. Rules are also already in place regarding the secure storage of marijuana kept on-site.

Working at a Dispensary

And finally, as with the rules regarding growers, there are a lot of minor details and affecting dispensaries but one is likely to affect you, the patient. The AMCC must establish standards for the training of dispensary employees and ensure that dispensaries only hire employees who meet those standards.

Regulations and Requirements Can Seem Like Governmental Red Tape, but They Benefit Marijuana Patients

Sure, sometimes government oversight can seem like bureaucratic nonsense, especially when Alabamans have waited so long already for medical marijuana. Do we really need a bunch of red tape slowing the process down even more?

But there’s two important things to keep in mind before you blame the AMCC for the delay in getting your Alabama Marijuana Card.

First, these rules and regulations protect marijuana patients, ensuring they get the highest quality medicine with the best possible service. Alabamans who illegally purchase marijuana, for recreational or medicinal purposes, have no way of knowing where their marijuana comed from or how pure it is. In contrast, with an Alabama Marijuana Card, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing for sure that what you’re putting in your body. The state’s medical marijuana will only improve your health, and regulators will ensure that only qualified, knowledgeable growers are cultivating your marijuana, so it will be as effective as possible in treating your qualifying conditions. As for regulations on dispensaries, such as the extensive training employees will be required to take, you’ll be sure that the person selling you your medicine is qualified to do so.

Another thing to keep in mind before condemning government regulations on the delay is that the AMCC has been moving relatively quickly; It’s Mother Nature and Father Time that are preventing you from getting medical marijuana until 2023.

AMCC Considered Making September 1, 2022, Deadline Earlier, but Decided It Wasn’t Viable

Early in the AMCC meeting process, the committee accomplished so much in a short period time so they considered asking the legislature to move up the deadlines in SB 46.

In September, commission Vice Chair Rex Vaughn, a Madison farmer, told the Alabama Media Group that he had been discussing the possibility of moving up the deadline with lawmakers. However, the AMCC was concerned that products wouldn’t be available for patients by the end of 2022, because of the time required for the marijuana growth cycle.

The plants, which will be raised in greenhouses, take 90-110 days to raise, so unless the September deadline was moved up, products would not be available until 2023, Vaughn said.

Vaughn told the Alabama Media Group that he would ask legislators to allow cultivation to begin in early 2022 instead of the fall. “It may allow us to grow a crop in 2022,” Vaughn said. “That is our game plan right now.”

The commission thought they could be ready to issue licenses to growers sooner than required by SB 46 because of how quickly they crafted Alabama’s medical marijuana market.

“They just didn’t think that the commission, our commission would move as fast as we’ve moved. We’ve gotten organized,” Dr. Steven Stokes, the Chairman of the AMCC, at the time told WBHM, Birmingham’s NPR affiliate.

Reality Sets in: Medical Marijuana Won’t be Available in Alabama Until 2023

Ultimately, the AMCC opted not to ask the legislature to revisit the September 1, 2022 deadline for two reasons.

The AMCC was concerned that if lawmakers revisited SB 46, they may end up changing more than just the commission’s deadlines. “At this point in time, we decided not to ask the Legislature to go back into digging up a legislative bill and opening it back up,” Vaughn told the Montgomery Advertiser at the time. “We could lose what we’ve got.”

Vaughn also said the commission had more pressing concerns to address, such as finalizing the aspects of Alabama’s medical marijuana market that SB 46 left unformed.

The commission came to the conclusion that they were being overly optimistic in how long it would take them to get their work done. “If you start looking at the timelines for what it’s going to take to get rules and regulations approved, and the growth cycle and the 60 days that people have to get in business after they get the license, it starts adding up,” John McMillian, the executive director of the AMCC, told the Advertiser after the commission’s October 1 meeting.

Bottom Line: Medical Marijuana Won’t Be Here Until 2023, but You Can Get Ready for It Now

Medical marijuana won’t be available to patients here until 2023, but don’t lose sight of the good news. Medical marijuana will be here in 2023, and you can start getting ready for its arrival right now!

Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate, qualified doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you as soon as Alabama’s medical mariuana market is up and running.

You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, using your smartphone, tablet, or computer for a telemedicine appointment. If you and your doctor decide that medical marijuana is right for you, you’ll get an Alabama Marijuana Card, all without leaving your home. And you’ll even save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!

Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

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!

And don’t forget to 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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