2021 brings new hope for medical cannabis in Alabama
Last update: January 28, 2021
Until concerns about the coronavirus stalled Alabama’s 2020 legislative session, the prospects of medical cannabis passing looked good. On March 13, 2020, the Alabama Senate approved the Compassion Act — SB 165 — in a 22-11 vote. While it enjoyed strong support in the House, the virus derailed the legislative session, and the bill never received a House vote.
The legislature is scheduled to reconvene on February 2, 2021, and Sen. Tim Melson has already introduced an updated version of the Compassion Act — SB 46. We’ve provided a summary of the bill here. While it is far better than the status quo, there are a number of provisions that are unnecessarily burdensome on patients. The bill steers pain patients to try opioids first, and it requires doctors to jump through hoops — including a four-hour course — that will depress participation.
Alabama’s lack of medical marijuana protections is becoming more and more of an outlier. Thirty-six states, including Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, allow medical cannabis, and polling shows 75% of Alabama voters support it.
But because Alabama doesn’t have a citizen initiative process, the only way to bring a compassionate law to the state is for state lawmakers to pass a bill.
Write your state legislators today, and then spread the word to other compassionate Alabamians. Let your lawmakers know that patients are counting on them to pass this important bill as soon as they get back to work.
Decriminalization made progress in 2019
In 2019, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 98, a decriminalization bill that would have reduced the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a fine of up to $250. Unfortunately, the House version, HB 96, was voted down in committee, 5-6, and the full Senate did not vote on the bill.
MPP wins First Amendment lawsuit against state of Alabama
In 2016, MPP joined forces with the Institute for Justice to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Alabama, alleging the state was unconstitutionally pricing MPP and then-MPP Legislative Counsel Maggie Ellinger-Locke out of exercising our First Amendment rights.
The suit was settled in April 2017, when Alabama agreed to make its lobbyist training class available online, instead of requiring Ms. Ellinger-Locke to travel to Montgomery before she could send a single email to a lawmaker. You can learn more about the suit pre-settlement by checking out this op-ed by lead counsel for the suit, Paul Sherman.
Now, thanks to the successful work on the part of the Institute for Justice, we can bring our important work to Alabama as we seek to improve the state’s marijuana policies.