Alabama’s Medical Cannabis Program Set to Roll Out Spring 2023
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) – Alabama became the 36th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2021, but the program has taken a while to roll out.
“There’s a lot of good that can come from that, from having safe, secure, high-quality medicine for people instead of sending them out onto the streets to operate on the black market,” said John McMillan, director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
McMillan said the commission is on track to begin accepting applications for dispensary licenses by September, with program rules to be made public this summer.
“From there it’s a three and a half month process, four months of publicity and hearings and stuff that goes into, I call it, the clumsiness of the state to get things done,” did he declare.
McMillan expects patients to be able to get a cannabis card by the spring of 2023. Meanwhile, others are attacking the state’s current marijuana laws.
“It’s high time for Alabama to decriminalize marijuana,” said Leah Nelson, research director of Alabama Appleseed.
Currently, possession of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $6,000 and one year in jail. A bill in the Alabama Legislature would remove the threat of imprisonment for having less than 2 ounces and reduce the fine to a maximum of $250.
“We are talking about an issue of racial justice and racial equity,” said Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham.
Rafferty said the decriminalization of marijuana is needed as Alabama prisons fill up and the state’s black residents are disproportionately arrested for possession.
“The disparity between African Americans arrested for simple possession of marijuana compared to whites, although both groups use marijuana at about the same rate, we’re talking about four times the odds if you’re black,” said said Rafferty.
Rafferty said he plans to introduce a version of that bill to the House in the remaining weeks of the session.
The Senate bill decriminalizing marijuana passed a committee in February, but has yet to go to a vote.