Today, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Compassion Act (SB 46) into law, making Alabama the 36th state to legalize cannabis for medical use.
The Alabama Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill with bipartisan support. The legislation will allow registered patients with qualifying conditions in Alabama to safely access and use medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. Medical cannabis will be available to patients in forms such as pills, lozenges, oils, and patches. Our summary of the law is available here.
Although the new law is far better than the status quo, there are a number of provisions that are unnecessarily burdensome on patients and doctors. It steers pain patients to try opioids first and 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.
But, we are encouraged that Alabama will now provide important medical marijuana protections to patients, joining 35 other states that have adopted effective medical cannabis laws, including several Southern states such as Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana. Thirteen additional states have laws on the books that acknowledge the medical value of cannabis but are more limited. (Sadly, the count of effective medical cannabis laws no longer includes Mississippi. Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a deeply flawed ruling to overturn Amendment 65, the medical cannabis law that voters overwhelmingly approved at the November 2020 election.)
Despite the disappointing news regarding Mississippi's medical cannabis setback, today's success in Alabama shows again that medical cannabis is possible in any state in the country, no matter how conservative. With 91% of Americans in support of medical cannabis, according to an April 2021 Pew poll, it’s clear that this is an issue of compassion, not partisanship. If you live in a state still lacking medical cannabis protections, write your state lawmakers and urge them to sponsor or support a medical cannabis bill.