Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission envisions cannabis plants being grown next year across the state

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

State lawmakers in Alabama will soon be on the receiving end of a request from the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to amend the state’s medical cannabis law. 

The reason for this request is to ensure that plants are sown as early as next year, thus making medical cannabis based products available to qualify patients within a shorter period of time.

A separate vote by the commission also saw State Treasurer John McMillan bag the job of executive director for a new agency tasked with running the medical cannabis program. 

Prior to being chosen for the role, McMillan spent two terms serving as state agriculture commissioner. What’s more, he is a former commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 

During a recent interview with reporters, McMillan said that he intends on accepting the job. His former role as state treasurer would be replaced by an unknown person.

Vaughn has been conversing with lawmakers about running Alabama’s medical cannabis program

Commission Vice Chair Rex Vaughn has been engaging in regular discussions with lawmakers regarding the start date for licensing cultivators. He hopes that lawmakers will accept his request to push the date from Sept 1, 2022 to early 2022. 

“It may allow us to grow a crop in 2022. That is our game plan right now,” Vaughn is quoted as saying. Under the terms of the state’s seed-to-sale intrastate program, all medical cannabis products must be made from plants cultivated in Alabama.

Greenhouse-grown plants usually take between 90 to 110 days to flourish. This means that, in the event that the Sept. 1, 2022 date remains unchanged, products may not be made available until 2023.

As per the amended law, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which is composed of 14 members, will provide oversight for a new agency in charge of licensing and regulation for growers, processors, testing laboratories, transporters and medical cannabis dispensaries.

While the Legislature is not currently in session, a special session on redistricting is anticipated to commence later this fall. Another looming legislative session is also expected to be focused on prison construction.

Gov. Kay Ivey will also be tasked with arranging a special session and naming the debated subjects.

About Alabama’s medical cannabis bill

On February 24, 2021, the Alabama Senate approved Senate Bill 46 in a 20-10 vote. The measure permitted registered patients to consume and safely access medical cannabis products.

Soon after the bill’s passing, a modified version was approved by the House of Representatives in a 68-34 vote on May 6, 2021. After the Senate agreed to the House amendments, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 17, 2021.

Patients are required to apply for and procure a medical cannabis card if they wish to legally use and access the plant in pharmaceutical form. A fee of $65 applies for applicants, all of whom must be diagnosed with one of the listed qualifying conditions by a licensed and certified doctor/healthcare physician. 

Examples of some of the qualifying conditions featured on Alabama’s medical cannabis rules include autism, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS-related nausea, PTSD, Tourette’s disease, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, terminal illness and chronic pain “in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective.”

Patients aged below 19 must first gain a parent or guardian’s consent to collect cannabis-based medicines in Alabama.