Now that Alabama has finally legalized cannabis for patients with qualifying conditions, we’re getting lots of questions about when exactly you’ll be able to purchase medical marijuana. And unfortunately, it’s still going to be awhile.
It won’t be until at least 2023 until qualified patients can purchase medical marijuana in Alabama. There are good reasons that this process takes so long, and medical marijuana is most definitely on its way, with nothing stopping it now!
Alabama Marijuana Program Will Open by September 1, 2022, Plants Won’t Grow Until After Then
Nothing has changed with the progress towards a fully operational medical marijuana market in Alabama since we last gave you an ETA on the opening of dispensary doors.
In a nutshell, SB 46, the state’s medical marijana law, says that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has to be ready by September 1, 2022 to accept and process licensing applications from patients and businesses.
Unfortunately, as we said in October, marijuana can’t be planted until at least that date, which means medicine won’t be available until at least 2023.
The commission considered the possibility of speeding up that timeline, as they thought they were completing their work much quicker than they’d anticipated. However, it was ultimately decided that it wasn’t a viable option.
John McMillian, the executive director of the AMCC, told the Montgomery Advertiser after the AMCC’s October 1, 2021 meeting that, “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.”
AMCC Feared Opening a Can of Worms by Going Back to the Legislature
In addition the unlikelihood of making changes to SB 46 in time to get medicine sooner, commission members feared that asking the lawmakers to revisit SB 46 would result in changes the commission wouldn’t like.
Rex Vaughn, the vice-chair of the Commission, told the Montgomery Advertiser, “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.” He added, “We could lose what we’ve got.”
AMCC Has to Establish an Entire New Market Which Takes Time
Vaughn also told the Advertiser in October that the AMCC should dedicate their attention to the massive amount of work it’s going to take to be ready by September 1, rather than trying to speed up medical marijuana’s arrival.
So what exactly has the commission been doing to prepare for that September 1 deadline? If you thought the answer was “not much,” the reality is that their work has been steady, despite it not being overly publicized.
While the AMCC website lists no news updates since October, and their FAQ page lists no expected date for dispensary doors to open, their regularly posted meeting minutes and schedules show that they’ve been working hard at getting the state ready for medical marijuana.
That’s good news, as there is a lot of work for them to do. SB 46 covers a lot of ground, in fact the bill clocks in at an impressive 102 pages! And yet all of those pages weren’t enough to cover everything for a fully functioning medical marijuana market, which is why SB 46 created the AMCC. The AMCC puts the final touches on our shiny new cannabis market.
AMCC Must Establish Rules for Medical Marijuana Cultivators
One area the AMCC must address is the rules and regulations under which medical marijuana cultivators will operate.
By law, commission rules must help protect public health. If just anyone could grow medical marijuana, there’d be no way to ensure that the product provided to dispensaries meets any minimal medical standards. Likewise, there’d be no way to verify the precise THC and CBD content of the plants, which would impair patients’ ability to select the optimal medicine for their conditions.
While it’s unfortunate that it will take longer for us to have access to medical marijiuana, allowing the commission to finish this process is the only way to be sure our medicine is pure and safe.
AMCC Must Create a Process to License Cannabis Dispensaries
You won’t be able to just walk into your local Publix or the nearest Buc-ee's and pick up a bag of weed even when Alabama’s medical marijuana market is operational. Only licensed dispensaries will be able to sell cannabis, and it’s the AMCC that will decide how to license those dispensaries.
As with the rules affecting cultivators, SB 46 laid out the basic rules for overseeing retailers, and you can read more about those here. One dispensary regulation in the law that is especially pertinent to medical marijuana patients is that the AMCC must establish training and hiring standards for dispensary employees. That way, you can be sure you’ll find qualified, competent retailers ready to guide you through the process of finding the right medicines for you.
It can be frustrating to have to wait even longer than we already have to get medical marijuana in Alabama, but do you really want untrained, unqualified clerks helping you pick your medicine?
Someone Has to Decide Who Gets Medical Marijuana in Alabama
The AMCC must also establish a process for evaluating patients’ applications for Alabama Marijuana Cards, as well as a system for distributing those cards and monitoring their use.
According to SB 46, marijuana cards will only be issued to patients with PTSD, cancer, or any of the more than twelve qualifying conditions that SB 46 recognizes. Patients will also need approval from a state-licensed doctor who has completed a medical marijuana training course. Once approved, patients will have to pay a fee, meaxed at $65, to the state.
There are many more regulations applying to patients and hoops for them to jump through. You can read more about those requirements here, or check out how Alabama Marijuana Card can handle some of the red tape for you.
Keep Watching the AMCC and AlabamaMarijuanaCard.com for Updates
Waiting can be hard, but we’re on the five yard line, and sometime in 2023 we’ll be in the endzone.
In the meantime, keep watching the AMCC website for updates and subscribe to our newsletter below for all breaking developments in Alabama and the larger world of medical marijuana. Take the first step towards getting your Alabama Marijuana Card by reserving an appointment online today with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable doctors.
We’ll book your appointment just as soon as Alabama’s medical marijuana market is up and running. Not only will you get medical marijuana more quickly, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your exam!
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 out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.