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Alabama Makes Progress in Expanding Medical Cannabis Access



Alabama has gone through a number of attempts to legalize and increase access to medical cannabis, and after members approved Senate Bill 46 last week, the state may be closer than ever to opening up some of these doors that have been closed for so long.

The approval of medical cannabis has been long awaited. “Carly’s Law” passed in 2014 and permitted the University of Alabama at Birmingham to provide cannabidiol (CBD) oil to children with debilitating seizures in a clinical study. Also, “Leni’s Law” was passed in 2016 to provide a defense to patients who possess CBD to treat other debilitating conditions.

The new bill comes after multiple failed bills and would establish the Compassion Act, which would allow regulated, medical cannabis access to patients with qualifying conditions, based on a physician’s recommendation. Smoking, vaping and edible forms of ingestion for medical cannabis would not be permitted, but lozenges, patches, oils and capsules would.

This bill would also establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission and clearly notes that its purpose is not to enable recreational cannabis use in the state.

In comparison to many other recent bills, SB 46 has made substantial progress, though it’s not quite finished. Specifically, the House has made some amendments that need Senate approval; one proposed change being the name change to “Darren Westley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act” in honor of Representative Laura Hall’s song Darren who died of AIDS. She believed medical cannabis could have helped her son.

The Senate approved amendments on Thursday, and the next step is approval from Governor Kay Ivey. It is not explicitly clear where Governor Ivey stands on the legislation, though she signed a bill into law in 2019 that created a commission to study medical cannabis and its effects, which also effectively renewed Carly’s Law.

The governor’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, was quoted as stating Governor Ivey will review the legislation with the “diligence it deserves.”