Regulators in Alabama said last week that medical marijuana likely will not be available for purchase in the state prior to 2023.
The Associated Press reported that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission “has plenty to do before people can apply for medical cannabis licenses, so it won’t push for a date that might allow sales next year.”
The news comes after the regulatory panel had previously said that the start date for sales may be accelerated.
But according to Rex Vaughn, the vice chairman of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, the panel has a full plate. He told the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper that “the group needed to address other duties, including rulemaking and physician training,” while also expressing “concerns that further legislative action—required to move the dates—could expose the medical cannabis law to attempts to weaken it.”
“At this point in time, we decided not to ask the Legislature to go back into digging up a legislative bill and opening it back up,” Vaughn said, as quoted by the Montgomery Advertiser. “We could lose what we’ve got.”
Lawmakers in Alabama passed a bill in May that legalized medical cannabis in the state for patients suffering from more than a dozen different qualifying conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression, sickle-cell anemia, terminal illnesses and HIV/AIDS.
The legislation was signed into law by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, about a week later.
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement following the bill signing. “On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
Getting the bill over the finish line was a multi-year effort for medical cannabis boosters in Alabama. Two years ago, lawmakers there failed to pass legislation that would have legalized the treatment. Instead, the legislature appointed a commission to research the policy via a series of public meetings.
At the end of 2019, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission voted to recommend that lawmakers pursue legislation permitting the treatment.
The bill never got off the ground last year, but lawmakers got the job this spring. Now, it is down to regulators to put the new law into practice.
The Montgomery Advertiser noted last week that supporters “of the bill had hoped to see medical marijuana available by the fall of 2022,” but because the law only allowed “the commission to accept applications for licenses to grow or distribute medical marijuana on September 1, 2022,” it is “unlikely that any cannabis could be grown, processed and ready for transport before 2023.”
“If you start looking at the timelines for what it’s going to take to get rules and regulations approved, and the growth cycle and the 60 days that people have to get in business after they get the license, it starts adding up,” John McMillian, the executive director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, said last week, as quoted by the Montgomery Advertiser.
Once physicians are clear to start prescribing, cannabis “would be available as tablets, capsules, gummies, lozenges, topical oils, suppositories, patches and in nebulizers or oil to be vaporized. The law forbids smoking or vaping medical cannabis, or baking it into food,” the Associated Press reported.
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