The panel tasked with overseeing the implementation of Alabama’s new medical cannabis law will reportedly urge lawmakers to tweak the measure in order to begin the plant cultivation process sooner.
That news comes via AL.com, which said that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has been in discussions with state legislators “about changing the date to allow cultivators to be licensed sooner, by no later than early 2022.”
Under the current language of the law that was passed and signed earlier this year, individuals can only begin to apply for licenses on September 1, 2022.
“The time required to grow the plants, which will be raised in greenhouses, is 90 to 110 days,” AL.com noted, adding that unless the September 2022 application date is modified, “products could not be available until some time in 2023.”
Alabama lawmakers passed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state in May. The legislation was signed into law later that month by Republican Governor Kay Ivey. After signing the bill, Ivey cited the work of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which was charged with investigating the policy, as a factor behind the measure’s success.
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement released at the time. “On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
The new law permits physicians in Alabama to recommend cannabis treatment to patients suffering from conditions such as seizures, spasticity associated with certain diseases or spinal cord injuries, anxiety or panic disorder and terminal illnesses.
The passage of the law in deep red Alabama was hailed as a triumph by advocates, who earlier this year saw Virginia become the first state in the American south to legalize recreational pot use for adults.
“This measure is an important first step for Alabamans. As written, this program is limited in its ability to sufficiently address the real-world needs of patients—many of whom receive maximum benefit from inhaling cannabis flower rather than oral formulations, which are often far slower acting and more variable in their effects,” Carly Wolf, the state policies manager for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement in May after Ivey signed the bill into law.
“Furthermore, we reject the notion that cannabis should be a treatment of ‘last resort.’ That said, this law begins the process of providing Alabamans, for the first time, with a safe, legal and consistent source of medicine. In the coming months and years, we anticipate and hope that lawmakers will continue to expand this access in a manner that puts patients’ interest first.”
The passage of the medical marijuana law was particularly satisfying for Tim Melson, a Republican state senator who for years has tried to legalize the treatment in Alabama.
The 2019 bill put up by Melson sought to establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which held hearings and studied the issue. In December of 2019, the commission, with Melson serving as the chair, voted to recommend legalizing medical marijuana.
After the bill was signed into law earlier this year, Melson, a medical doctor, noted that he and other advocates had to win some colleagues over.
“The hardcore people that were against it,” Melson said, as quote by local TV station WHNT. “The on-the-fence people, when they started hearing people’s stories and success stories, I think they got swayed. Once you have a family member that needs it and you’ve seen the benefit, or a friend, then it’s easier to vote for it.”