When Will Medical Marijuana be Available in Alabama?
It has been nearly three weeks since Governor Ivery signed SB 46 into law, clearing the way for medical marijuana here. So naturally the question on everyone’s mind is: When will I be able to get an Alabama Marijuana Card and buy medical marijuana in Alabama?
And it’s understandable that everyone is so anxious. First, for many thousands of Alabamans, medical marijuana represents hope for relief from conditions that traditional medical treatments have proven unable to manage.
Second, 35 states legalized some form of medical marijuana before Governor Ivey’s pen brought the total to 36. We’ve been watching other states for years benefit from medical cannabis, so of course we’re chomping at the bit for our turn!
Well you can start the process of getting your Alabama Marijuana Card now, but answering the question “when will I be able to buy medical marijuana in Alabama” is a little more complicated.
What Needs to Happen For Alabama to Provide Legal Access to Medical Marijuana?
SB 46 requires the state to establish processes for creating a medical marijuana market here, including creating a program where authorized Alabamans can get their medical marijuana card and steps companies can follow to become licensed growers and retailers.
The law also lays out some pretty strict and specific standards patients, physicians, growers, and retailers will have to meet in order to be in compliance with the law.
It’s one thing to say medical marijuana is now legal, but it’s an entirely different thing to say, for example, that medical marijuana is legal so long as it is sold in licensed dispensaries, when the process for licensing dispensaries hasn’t even been entirely established yet.
So the bad news is we still have a bit of a wait ahead of us in Alabama before we can buy medical marijuana. The good news is that our days of being without relief are now numbered.
Infrastructure for Medical Marijuana Access to be in Place by September 1, 2022
Mark your calendars! That’s the big date by which Alabama has to have the infrastructure in place for a medical marijuana market to be established.
What sort of infrastructure? Well in addition to lots of little details, the law requires the state by that date to have laid the groundwork for three of the largest components of the medical marijuana market.
By September 1, 2022, the state must have created processes for 1) accepting and processing applications for marijuana cards, 2) licensing and overseeing marijuana cultivation, and 3) licensing and regulating dispensaries.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Patient Registry System
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.
That might sound simple enough, but the law is pretty demanding as to what all the Alabama Medical Cannabis Patient Registry System (AMCPRS) must do.
In addition to the names of all of the 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 make sure they are not sold more medical marijuana than they are authorized to buy. Retail purchases will also be included in the database to help ensure that 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.
From Little Seeds Mighty Marijuana Grows
By that same date, the AMCC must also establish the complete rules for governing marijuana cultivation and be ready to accept and process applications from would-be growers.
SB 46 already laid out some of the rules growers will be required to follow. First, whatever other rules the AMCC creates, their regulatory framework must “ensure the health, safety, and security of the public and the integrity of medical cannabis facility operations.”
Beyond that, and among other things, the AMCC must:
Require cultivators to have a minimum of two million dollars in liability and casualty insurance
Establish qualifications for 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
Create procedures for renewing, revoking, and suspending licenses
And while there are several other restrictions and regulations imposed upon growers, there is one last one that is particularly relevant to medical marijuana patients. Cultivators must be in compliance with whatever seed-to-sale system the AMCC creates.
That may seem like just one more piece of red tape, but think of it this way: Alabamans who illegally purchase marijuana, for recreational or medicinal purposes, have no way of knowing where their marijuana came from or how pure it is.
In contrast, with an Alabama Marijuana Card, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing for sure that what you’re putting in your body will only improve your health.
What are the Rules for Alabama Medical Marijuana Dispensaries?
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, whatever other rules they may create.
Number of Dispensaries Allowed in Alabama
First, the commission may grant no more than four dispensary licenses, with each licensee allowed to operate up to three dispensary locations, so 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 issue dispensaries the right to open additional locations if the Commission deems the patient pool to have grown 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 also oversee dispensary security, with continuously running cameras pointed at each entry and surveillance tapes kept 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 rules regarding growers, there are a lot of minor details and legalese affecting dispensaries, but only one more detail likely to affect you, the patient. The AMCC must establish standards for the training of dispensary employees and to ensure that only dispensaries only hire employees who meet those standards.
Sure, sometimes government oversight can seem like bureaucratic nonsense, but don’t you want to know that the person selling you your medicine is qualified to do so?
The Journey of One Thousand Miles
Looking at all of these requirements, it can seem like medical marijuana is still a long way from Alabama. And indeed, Representative Mike Ball and Senator Tim Melson, the state legislators who guided SB 46 from bill to law, both agree it will be fall of 2022 before it gets here.
But let’s put it in perspective: Marijuana has been illegal in Alabama for 90 years now, and here we are a little more than a year away from being able to legally buy medical marijuana.
If the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, Alabama is already on mile 999 in the journey toward legalization. Why not take your first step towards enjoying the benefits of the work of legislators like Representative Ball and Senator Melson and begin the process of getting your Alabama Marijuana Card today?
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.