Until concerns about the coronavirus stalled Alabama’s 2020 legislative session, the prospects of medical cannabis passing this year 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.
This setback is a tremendous disappointment for patients, who have been working for many years to convince the legislature to pass medical cannabis legislation. Check back for updates and opportunities to move the issue forward.
Sen. Tim Melson, MD sponsored the bill, which reflected the work of a study commission that explored the issue over the fall. A summary is available here.
Alabama’s lack of medical marijuana protections is becoming more and more of an outlier. Thirty-three states, including Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas, allow medical cannabis, and Mississippi voters will get to decide the issue directly in November. Polling shows 75% of Alabama voters support medical cannabis.
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 — either in a special session or first thing in 2021.
Decriminalization made progress in 2019
Last year, 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.