The Alabama Legislature overwhelmingly approved — and Gov. Kay Ivey signed — a medical cannabis bill! This makes Alabama the 36th state with a full medical cannabis law.
On February 24, 2021, the Senate passed the bill in a 20-10 vote. The House followed suit on May 6 in a 68-34 vote, and the Senate swiftly concurred with the House’s changes to the details. On May 17, 2021, Gov. Ivey signed the bill into law.
We’ve provided a summary of the bill, Sen. Tim Melson’s Compassion Act — SB 46, here. While it is far better than the status quo, there are a number of provisions that are unnecessarily burdensome on patients. It steers pain patients to try opioids first, and it requires doctors to jump through hoops — including a four-hour course and a fee of up to $300 — that will depress participation. It also prohibits smoking, vaporization, and whole-plant cannabis, which drives up prices and denies some patients the treatment option that works best for them.
Decriminalization bill falls short
On March 3, 2021, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Sen. Bobby Singleton's (D) decriminalization bill — SB 149 — in a 6-3 vote. Unfortunately, the bill was indefinitely postponed and will not receive a vote. SB 149 would have reduced the penalty for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis to a violation carrying a $250 fine. It would also make possession of larger amounts a fine-only offense.
Personal use possession of marijuana — even the smallest amount — is now a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000.