The father of a nine-month old baby girl who went missing overnight this past July is facing multiple felony charges because police say he was inside his dealer’s house buying drugs when his car, left running with his baby inside, went missing out of the driveway.
According to the Parrish Police Department, 9-month-old Harlow Freeman was first reported missing on Monday, July 10 by her father, 30-year-old Madison Jo Rilee Freeman of Jasper, Alabama.
“On July 10th, 2023, the Parrish Police Department was notified of a 9-month-old child that was left inside of a vehicle located at 311 Crest Avenue in Parrish. The father, Jo Rilee Freeman, reported to officers that he left the child inside the running vehicle while he went inside to visit his friends,” said the Parrish Police Department in a Facebook post.
Police said the results of their months-long investigation revealed Freeman had lied about what he had been doing inside the house and he had actually been inside purchasing a prescription anxiety medication called Xanax, which is often abused for its extremely sedative and tranquilizing effects.
“The investigation has revealed the father, Jo Rilee Freeman, drove to 311 Crest Avenue and was conducting a drug transaction with Rodney Thomas while inside the residence,” Parrish Police said. “The father was made aware while he was inside the residence that his car was no longer in the driveway. He drove around for several minutes looking for his car then notified the police. A handgun and other narcotics were recovered from the residence.”
An AMBER alert was issued and according to Police Chief Danny Woodard, over 100 law enforcement units arrived to help find Harlow within 30 minutes of the alert.
“The child was located inside the vehicle 12 hours later. The vehicle was approximately 80 yards down a steep embankment across the street from the house completely covered in kudzu,” Parrish Police said.
What happened to little Harlow between the time her father went into his suspected dealer’s house and the time she was found the next morning is still relatively unclear. The vehicle was found just across the street down a steep ravine the next morning, shrouded from view by thick patches of vines. Parrish Police have said they do not have a suspect in custody for the suspected kidnapping or car theft.
“It was impossible to see,” Chief Woodard said about the location of the vehicle. “The area was searched multiple times through the night.”
Harlow was dehydrated but ok when they found her, according to police. In a stroke of blind luck for the infant, a rear window of the vehicle had been broken in a previous and completely unrelated incident so the baby had plenty of fresh air overnight. She was taken to the hospital to be evaluated but was in “good” condition when Chief Woodard gave a press conference update to the situation in July.
“Considering the situation this was the best case scenario for us to find the child alive and well, dehydrated, but going to [have] a 100 percent recovery.” Chief Woodard said.
I found a lot of speculation saying the Dad forgot to apply the parking brake and the vehicle rolled into the ravine backwards but I also found plenty of speculation saying that didn’t happen and Chief Woodard has given few details other than to say that “Anything is possible, and everything is being evaluated.” Police also said they received many reports of the vehicle in question leaving the area at a high rate of speed.
Warrants were issued and subsequent arrests made for Madison Jo Rilee Freeman and his alleged dealer, Rodney Thomas as well as a third person, 19-year-old Mason Chappel whose involvement in the case was not immediately clear.
Freeman was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and endangering the welfare of a child. Thomas was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He also had six grams of meth and assorted prescription pills on him when he was arrested. Chappel was charged with interfering with governmental operations. A call to the Parrish Police Department to inquire who Chappel is and what he had to do with this case was not returned in time for publication.
“I would like to thank all the agencies and the Walker County District Attorney’s for the many hours of hard work that went into this investigation. While we are still seeking answers to this case the investigation will continue,” Chief Woodard said.
Regulators in Alabama last week abruptly suspended the process of awarding business licenses for the state’s new medical cannabis program, citing the “discovery of potential inconsistencies” in the application process.
During an emergency meeting on Friday, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission voted to “stay all proceedings related to the current offering of medical cannabis business licenses.”
The commission said that the stay was issued following the “discovery of potential inconsistencies in the tabulation of scoring data” used to evaluate applications for business licenses. During the commission, the commission said that it will “seek an independent review of all scoring data.”
“The Commission will work expeditiously to investigate and identify inconsistencies in the score data,” said Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission director, John McMillan. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are suspending all current procedural timelines until those matters are resolved.”
In a press release on Friday, the commission did not provide a timetable for the length of the stay, saying only that it will “remain in effect until lifted by the Commission.”
The stay will impact the following procedural requirements of the medical cannabis program, per the press release: “Applicants who were awarded a license on June 12, 2023, are not required to pay the license fee by June 26, 2023; Applicants who were denied award of license on June 12, 2023, are not required to submit a request for investigative hearing by June 26, 2023; Licenses that were awarded on June 12, 2023, will not issue on July 10, 2023.”
At the time of the announcement, the Medical Cannabis Commission said that the “University of South Alabama (USA) was engaged… to coordinate the application review process and recruit evaluators to assess the scored exhibit items for all 90 applicants.”
“[The University of South Alabama] utilized 66 evaluators, with experience relevant to the application content, to review one of eight scoring categories: (1) Financial Ability; (2) Business/Management Approach; (3) Operations Plans & Procedures; (4) Facility Suitability & Infrastructure; (5) Security Plan; (6) Personnel; (7) Quality Control & Testing; or (8) Marketing & Advertising. Each scored exhibit was independently reviewed by two evaluators to assess the applicant’s solvency, stability, suitability, capability, projected efficiency, and experience, both in relation to any baseline set by the Commission as well as in comparison with other applicants,” the commission explained.
“Those applicants who were awarded a license will have 14 days to submit the appropriate license fee to the Commission. At its meeting on July 10, 2023, the Commission is scheduled to issue licenses in each license category,” the commission continued. “Under the rules promulgated by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, physicians may begin the certification process to recommend medical cannabis after business licenses have been issued. For a patient to qualify for medical cannabis, the patient must have at least one of the qualifying conditions and be recommended for medical cannabis by a certified physician.”
Now, all of that has been paused until further notice, leaving the immediate future of the new law shrouded in uncertainty.
Alabama legalized medical cannabis in 2021, when Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill making the treatment available to certain individuals with qualifying conditions.
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said after signing the bill into law. “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.”
In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Rhode Island expunges more than 23,000 cannabis possession records; House lawmakers introduce a bill to promote cannabis research; and Alabama awards the state’s first medical cannabis licenses.
Rhode Island Expunges More Than 23,000 Cannabis Possession Records
The Rhode Island judiciary system has successfully expunged more than 23,000 records related to cannabis possession, marking the completion of the initial phase of cannabis relief mandated by the state’s legalization law and a Supreme Court executive order.
In a press release issued on Thursday, the judiciary announced that 3,015 cases were expunged in the Superior Court, 10,650 cases in the District Court and 9,952 cases in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.
Through collaborative efforts between courts and law enforcement, automated relief was provided in compliance with the state’s enactment of adult-use legalization last year. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell further facilitated the process by issuing an executive order outlining the procedures for mass expungements in January.
“The automatic expungement of marijuana charges has been an impressive achievement,” State Court Administrator Julie Hamil said in a recent announcement. “The Judiciary has demonstrated coordination at all levels to ensure the timely and comprehensive execution of this process.”
The second phase of the expungement process will focus on clearing cannabis possession records related to cases with multiple criminal violations. Planning is underway for this phase and must be completed by July 1, 2024.
Bill Promoting Cannabis Research Introduced
A House bill introduced Tuesday by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) aims to promote responsible research on the plant. The Higher Education Marijuana Research Act would appropriate up to $150 million in federal funding for university-sponsored medical cannabis research.
“The legal, responsible use of cannabis has been a major economic driver in Nevada and across the country and deserves further research,” Rep. Titus said in a press release. “Most of that research will come from academia, where right now too many universities and researchers do not have robust protections for even possessing what they are researching. As a former professor, I’m introducing this commonsense legislation to support their work and help us all learn more about the effects and potential uses of cannabis.”
As a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Congresswoman Titus supported the Medical Marijuana Research Act in the previous session. She also included language in last year’s appropriations package that prevents the Department of Justice from impeding the implementation of legal marijuana programs in any state. In the current Congress, she’s a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, which aims to provide legal cannabis businesses, including those in Nevada and nationwide, access to banking services similar to other small businesses.
Morgan Fox, Political Director for NORML, says that significant federal barriers still exist when it comes to conducting further research, especially regarding clinical trials and products available in state-legal markets.
“We are grateful to Rep. Titus for introducing this legislation at a time when state cannabis laws are rapidly changing,” Fox says. “This bill will facilitate trusted university partners to engage in the kinds of research that will best equip state and federal lawmakers and regulators to develop effective cannabis policies based on public health and safety, will allow consumers to make more informed choices and will help train the next generation of cannabis researchers.”
Alabama Awards First Medical Cannabis Licenses
On June 12, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) announced the first round of licenses for medical marijuana businesses. After reviewing 90 applications for cannabis business licenses, 21 permits were awarded to companies catering to the needs of registered medical cannabis patients in the state.
In accordance with the state’s medical cannabis law, the commission has the authority to grant a maximum of 12 cultivator licenses, four processor licenses, four dispensary licenses, five integrated facility licenses, as well as an unspecified number of secure transporter and laboratory licenses.
MCC Vice Chairman Rex Vaughn has expressed the state’s intention to initiate a second round of license applications for cultivators, transporters and laboratories, saying, “These businesses will not only serve the patients of Alabama but provide business and job opportunities for local communities,” he said.
Evaluators with relevant experience, recruited by the University of South Alabama, assessed the applications. Scoring was based on various factors, including financial capability, management approach, operational plans, personnel and security measures. Two evaluators independently reviewed each exhibit to determine the applicant’s solvency, stability, suitability, capability, projected efficiency and experience. These assessments considered the commission’s criteria and a comparison with other applicants.
Alabama’s medical marijuana law, enacted in 2021, is recognized as one of the strictest cannabis programs in the country. Licensed dispensaries have the legal authority to sell specific forms of medical cannabis, such as inhalers, suppositories, topicals, inhalers, lozenges and edibles. However, the law prohibits patients from purchasing, growing, or smoking flowers and other inhalable combustibles.
The recently finalized guidelines from the AMCC introduce additional regulations primarily aimed at preventing accidental consumption of cannabis gummies by children. Edible producers are strictly prohibited from using cartoons, realistic or fictional characters, language that may attract minors, or images of fruits, children, or animals in their products. Additionally, imitations of existing candies targeted at children are strictly forbidden.
While child safety rules of this nature are standard in other states with legalized medical or recreational cannabis, Alabama has taken further measures. The AMCC mandates that edibles must be produced as “gelatinous cubes,” ensuring a distinct shape that differentiates them from children’s candy. Other acceptable shapes include “rectangular cuboids” or variations thereof. The Cotton State has gone one step further—all gummies must be peach-flavored as the AMCC was concerned that flavoring and sugars would attract children.
Regulators in Alabama will take a big step this week toward the launch of the state’s new medical cannabis industry, with plans to begin issuing licenses for businesses on Monday.
Local news station WIAT reported that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission will start the process of awarding licenses from the pool of 90 applications it says it has received.
“Earlier this year, the group began reviewing the applications for cultivators, processors and dispensaries, along with other areas of the industry. The University of South Alabama collaborated with the commission to evaluate the applications,” the station reported.
The Medical Cannabis Commission said in April that it had “voted to formally deem 90 applications submitted.” After deeming those applications “properly filed, amended, and corrected,” the commission said that they would “proceed to the review, evaluation and scoring process.”
“The application for medical cannabis business licenses closed on December 30, 2022. Timely filed applications were reviewed by [Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission] for deficiencies, and applicants were given notice of any deficient items in their application. Applicants were required to file a proposed corrected application, or request more time for filing such application, by March 3, 2023,” the commission said in April. “Additionally, applicants could file a petition to amend items in their application. Applicants who were granted an extension of time to propose deficiency corrections and those filing a proposed amended application were required to file their corrected and/or amended applications by March 24, 2023.”
Commission director John McMillan said at the time that the panel was “excited to be one step closer to program implementation.”
“Now that we have our official slate of applicants, the sixty-day window to review applications has started,” said McMillan.
The commission said then that it was scheduled “to award licenses in each license category” at its meeting scheduled for Monday this week.
“Once the business licenses have been issued, physicians may begin the certification process to recommend medical cannabis to qualified patients,” the commission said at the time.
The 90 applications that were officially submitted included 12 cultivator applications, 11 processor applications, 18 dispensary applications, nine secure transporter applications, two state testing laboratory applications and 38 integrated facility applications.
The commission explained how the evaluation and allocation of the licenses would unfold.
“The review, evaluation and scoring of applications will inform the Commission’s decisions regarding award of licenses. This information will be based on the merits of each application as expressed by ranked score. The Commission has engaged the University of South Alabama to establish teams of academic evaluators and other qualified individuals to review, evaluate and score business license applications. The Commission has complete discretion as to the number of licenses awarded (not to exceed the limits provided by the Act) and the applicants to whom licenses are awarded,” the announcement in April said. “Following the evaluation of applications, the Commission, per the statute, may award up to twelve (12) cultivator licenses, four (4) processor licenses, four (4) dispensary licenses, five (5) integrated facility licenses and an unspecified number of secure transport and state testing laboratory licenses.”
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the legislation. “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.”
A debate about which album aged better: The Game’s Documentary or 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. One party suggests 50 Cent’s seminal ‘03 debut due to its cultural relevancy and influence on the commercialization of Gangsta rap. Another party presents The Game’s solo debut simply because of “Hate it or Love it.” On the television is a pre-fame 50 Cent on a rooftop, offering advice on absorbing knowledge, self-manifestation, and the parallel between the hood and corporate America—Pink Siifu and Ahwlee, or B. Cool-Aid, sit inches apart: Siifu on the low-rising couch and Ahwlee on a chair close to the table. Siifu changes the television, putting on a video of D’Angelo Voodoo session outtakes. The air is relaxed and sweetened with the aroma of marijuana. Ashes pile in the wooden basket on the table. Siifu, with a slab of Rastafarian decorated marble, fronto leaf, and his sealed flower of choice, while I roll a joint of my own on my lap.
Jazz-soul fusion duo B. Cool-Aid is preparing to release their first album in four years, Leather Blvd, due March 31st. “Something flashy. We wanted to be running sexy with it,” Siifu says about the album title. Both Siifu and Ahwlee resonate serenity in the room, a still calmness that’s also in their music. During their four-year absence, Siifu and Ahwlee became successful artists in the underground rap scene. When asked why a B. Cool-Aid record now, they reply, “life” and that it’s the right time. Siifu, an enigmatic artist from Alabama, has released works with Flyanakin, Yungmorpheus, and AKAI Solo, along with two studio albums—one of them being a punk-thrash project titled Negro—and a collaborative tape with producer Real Bad Man released last year. Bay-area producer Ahwlee released two instrumental albums, VII in 2020–an EP with Chill Children the same year—and Ftrs last year. B. Cool Aid takes the relaxation of Ahwlee’s lo-fi compositions and Siifu’s ear for live instruments to conjure music that taps into vintage soul, funk, and jazz.
B. Cool-Aid first met at a Boiler Room set in Los Angeles, where both Siifu and Ahwlee shared the same bill. Ahwlee knew he wanted to work with Siifu following his performance: “It’s that kind of Lil Wayne willingness to go there. Just step into his own and do what other people aren’t doing. I knew he had the courage and the skill to step into a place where niggas weren’t at and that he could keep doing that.” The name “B. Cool-Aid” materialized in 2016, working on their debut Brwn a year before the duo established themselves. Compared to Siifu’s past work, B. Cool-Aid allows him to explore the neo-soul side of his artistry. “I feel like back talking FlySiifu’s is different, even though it’s still rap, and it’s still Southern based…it’s still different.“
We are in the home of streetwear brand Trash Co. and DC-based rapper Obiisay, a mainstay haven for neighboring underground rap acts. The walls often rumble from the trains clattering on the tracks near the building. Artwork hangs on the walls, colorful and reimagining various cartoon characters. It’s a fortress for creatives to stay creative. With joints burning and mimosas on the table, B. Cool-Aid talks to High Times about their early beginnings as a group and their upcoming album Leather Blvd.
I feel like the soul in hip-hop and in general, music right now has diminished. How important is it to keep that meaning and purpose intact in your music?
Ahwlee: You can’t translate that. You can’t prefabricate it, and sort of manufacture shit. Niggas are all some row of assembly line type shit, as far as music goes, in my opinion. Living the music you make is a lost science.
Siifu: I mean, that’s the thing too, bro. Everything that we kind of said on this record is like everyday shit. Niggas don’t. And it’s cool to fabricate tough shit. And to be a fictional “wrestling” type of rapper.
At that point, you’re an entertainer
Siifu: It’s like you’re a fucking entertainer, yeah. And we’re not real gangsters, we’re not real artists and shit. Somebody could say, if you’re doing this, you’re not a gangsta all the time. You’re making money. With me and Ahwlee, with this soul shit, what he came up on, it’s all just real shit. I’m not going to say all the Neo-Soul, the soul is out, because I do fuck with niggas like Smino, Mike, Booker, and Ari Lennox. I guess, a few niggas like going crazy, like they’re making me feel something.
It’s been four years since the last LP. What made now the right time to bring back B. Cool-Aid for another tape?
Pink Siifu: It’s right on time. We feel like it’s done. Shout out to Butcher Brown again. They helped us really, because we’ve been recording.
Ahwlee: We ain’t even stopped making music the whole time.
Pink Siifu: Yeah, yeah. We’ve been making shit, you feel me? But I love sequels. I really like them. If I made a movie and I had a sequel, I would take my time. So I feel like this is our sequel because SYRUP was the EP for us first. We feel like it’s bigger than us. Like fuck it, make it like the world.
I like first the single, “Cnt Go Back,” because when I hear it, it takes me back to the early days. Do you ever look back at SYRUP?
Pink Siifu: Yeah, I don’t remember what I was doing around SYRUP. I feel like I was kind of living good. I did start fucking with my baby momma, my baby.
Ahwlee: Because she was at the SyrupHands video. I still trip on that.
Pink Siifu: Right. She’s on the cover of SYRUP. That’s her and another home girl eating breakfast, of pancakes and syrup. Yeah, it was a good time. It was right before ensley too.
Ahwlee: Yeah, he was getting his ensley bag.
Pink Siifu: I was starting to produce and loop shit. I remember we were playing as B. Cool-Aid at Lodge Room, after SYRUP, and I dropped ensley that night. I dropped ensley in the Green Room at that show.
In the second part of that song, there’s reassurance for listeners that things are going to get better someday, and things will turn around and pray through. Why is that?
Pink Siifu: That’s Jon Bap. That nigga, he came and he got in and just laced that shit, bro. He flipped the beat. That’s him flipping “Cnt Go Back,” but he just flipped it. Then, I asked that nigga to sing on the original, and he just gave me that, with a verse, and that nigga doesn’t really even rap. That nigga’s a singer and a producer.
It sticks with you.
Pink Siifu: Yeah, and then he inspired my version.
Ahwlee: Yeah, that song just got longer and longer, and it went on a whole different tangent.
Pink Siifu: We’re working with musicians. Ahwlee is already one of my favorite producers. So one of my favorite producers linked up with a band. They gave us everything we needed. A pack that we could sample. I loop shit from that. So that’s like the intro and two interludes I looped. That’s my first time even touching production on B. Cool-Aid. But that’s off of ensley, and that’s off of me fucking with shit now. So that’s that whole four years. Ahwlee fucking playing keys like a motherfucker right now, getting hella musical.
Your craft has evolved obviously, so with that craft though, your life has also advanced. I’ve noticed the lyrics have themes of fatherhood and maturity.
Siifu: Have we?
To me, I think…
Siifu: No, I feel that. No, you weren’t there while we were making it, so I want to know what the fuck you’re talking about? I feel that. You feel like it’s got the father. I feel that.
How does it affect you as an artist coming into this album I feel like some circumstances were different, probably maybe a year or two ago.
Ahwlee: Yeah. For sure. I mean, before the pandemic, in the zone where he is or is working on this, a lot of shit changed for both of us. We moved around and then we left that kind of golden zone that we just got through talking about.
Siifu: Yeah, we would just link up all the time, and make shit.
Ahwlee: Yeah. Just finding shit and going out and having fun. It got hella serious with everybody. So the music kind of reflects that change that we all had to make as people.
Siifu: It’s cool, this is fun, we love this shit but now we’ve got to take care of shit in a whole new way.
There are possibilities now.
Siifu: Exactly. I mean, that’s all good though. It’s all good. I’m definitely changing. You’re definitely going to hear more and more of that in my music.
You hear the maturity growth from record to record. This record specifically has vast differences.
Siifu: That’s the thing though, with GUMBO’! and just my solo work in general, I’m just cultivating and I’m sequencing everything. I’m doing everything, and in these collaboration projects, it’s easier, but I give the same focus and attention to what we’re building. Tight shit. But with the solo shit, GUMBO’!, it’s going to be so different than this, but also I’m growing, so my next shit is going to be different from GUMBO’! For sure. But because I’m a dad, a full dad now. We’re getting older, the music’s getting crazier.
Were any of these songs created, during the GUMBO’! sessions, and creatively, are there differences from working on an album like GUMBO’! versus something like Leather Blvd.?
Siifu: Yeah, I booked some studio sessions and I had one room where we were doing B. Cool-Aid, and one room I was mixing and adding shit to GUMBO’!
Ahwlee: A few cuts you might hear at a later date.
Siifu: Like the track, the interlude track on GUMBO’!, with Ahwlee, that Ahwlee beat, I forgot, it’s like I think, right before “BACK’!” But like I made that off of making some B. Cool-Aid shit. I was like, “I need some Ahwlee shit on this shit.” We’d been working on B. Cool-Aid for a minute and GUMBO’! was a surprise. I wasn’t even going to make GUMBO’! it wasn’t in the cards.
But Butcher made so much sense with this B. Cool-Aid shit. Working with him, I was like, “Oh, wow,” because Ahwlee is already a fan of Butcher and DJ, so it was just like, we made sense. At the tail end of GUMBO’!, finishing with GUMBO’! a bunch of Brown tracks came in, in the middle, because GUMBO’! was originally all tracked.
Where’s Big Rube come in?
Siifu: Big Rube came in GUMBO’! I got to call him too because I want to get him on my next shit too. I had to tell him. I was like, “Bro,” because I started doing poetry. I wanted to source the rap. I started rapping. I did rap verses here and there, but I wasn’t really rapping until college, till out of high school type shit. Our school was doing poetry.
I was doing poetry, open mics, doing that shit. My nigga Peso, who was on GUMBO’!, Peso Gordon, he was working on the album with this nigga and they let me do poetry on that shit. That was my first ever real feature, for real. But my first idea was to do a poetry album. It was like not even a rap album, like some poetry album.
Is that still on the horizon?
Siifu: No but I would love to curate some shit like that. Like, bring back that Def Jam poetry-type energy. I’d love to do some shit like that.
Leather Blvd. creates a world where Black excellence is untouched by racism, criticism, and economic hardship. It’s about the power of Black culture. To strengthen the community. What inspires y’all to make this album such a safe place?
Siifu: Shit, because it’s unsafe out here, bro. Niggas who are trying to make it unsafe for niggas.
Ahwlee:Leather Blvd. ain’t safe. It’s actually Black shit. You’ve got to deal with the growth and the obstacles. It’s like confidence-type shit.
Siifu: I felt like Leather Blvd. was really a place for conflict and discussion.
Ahwlee: It’s like the whole block. That’s the barbershop. You’re not going to get through life, being in a safe space. You’re not going to get through life without being in conflict. But it is a way to navigate that. This shit is shining a light upon that. It is a way to navigate that. It is a way that the culture has survived to this point, and it ain’t by it all being good. It’s by survival and perseverance. That’s what is happening on Leather Blvd.
How important is it to have that established?
Ahlwee: It’s not important, bro. It’s not important because the times are telling us to forget and to throw that shit away, and that’s all the negative aspects. They’re not necessarily, everything is pointing towards the good in everything, which is positive, and which is a good thing. But on the same token, those two sides aren’t a token, and they’re not the same. And it’s stuff to learn, on either side. This is bringing both sides in, in a way that you can accept and grow from it, or something better and stronger. It’s not anything to be down about. It’s important because it’s going to help you grow.
Is that what you’re trying to broadcast as the album as a whole?
Siifu: You walk down the block. Just like any shit, you bring it to the block. But also, just like on some real shit, diamonds are stress. You get your stress diamonds. In some tracks, you feel yourself flirtatious. That’s just nostalgia, just for having fun. Like you’re feeling things, but it’s a lot of different shit where it’s like stressful relationship shit. Like fucking around with the wrong folks. Not in the right, wasting time type shit. I feel like we got all that shit in. Everything that, what niggas been through in the past, for years, that is their life I feel like. It’s in that shit. Especially as Black people. It feels like a movie, so I wanted to treat it like that. Like some shit, you could really sit down with.
Ahwlee: It’s like, when it comes, welcome to Leather Blvd., enjoy the experience.
What would you say is B. Cool-Aid’s purpose?
Awhlee: To end the beef between the Jewish community and Kanye West.
As I sit here typing out this story from the safety of a bulletproof office—at least I hope to hell that it is—someone, maybe even someone you know will be killed by gun violence. On average, around 106 Americans die each day from a chance meeting with a bullet. Some of the casualties are shot dead by gutless goons while others, sadly enough, turn the firepower on themselves. Despite the vast toll of bodies and bloodshed, however, the American piece construct, one that seemingly embraces the most imbecilic tenets of deep-woods hillbilly philosophy, is to shoot first and never ask questions. No matter how many innocent people succumb to murder and suicide in this pistol-packing nation, the red, white and blue fabric of the governmental hood, all tattered and torn from decades of knock-down drag-out politics against its own, continues blinding a nation with a hefty dose of God-fearing optimism.
After all, many of the victims of gun attacks actually survive—around 95 of the 316 shot a day are merely injured—and of the 74 each day who stick the barrel in their mouths in pursuit of ending it all, 10 of them just end up disfigured. The recipe for relief when guns go wrong in this country is to simply mourn, pray and repeat. And what the politicians refuse to sort out with respect to all of this boom-boom killplay, they give the rest up to God and hope for the best. But that’s never enough.
“The shots keep getting closer to home,” Rachel, a 33-year-old graphic designer who lives on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, told High Times. “More criminals than anyone else seem to have guns. It’s scary, you never know any more if you’re going to get killed just sitting on the porch.”
Nevertheless, the so-called greatest nation in the world keeps its finger firmly on the trigger. It has to. Why, if the forefathers of the good ole US of A thought it necessary way back when to give every citizen the right to pack heat, then by God, the politicians, both the corrupt and non-confrontational, should never stop fighting to ensure that every citizen is clenching a firearm in their fists as soon as they pop out of the womb. Unfortunately, our gun-wielding society has officially lost its damn mind. What was intended as a right to self-protection (or perhaps more controversially, create a standing army, not give everyone the right to carry weapons just because) has since mutated into the dimwitted armament of domestic terrorists. We’ve now got weak-minded, undisciplined, pimple-faced, pseudo-anarchists angry at the world shooting up schools at a rate that crossed the line of acceptability a long damn time ago. The unarmed has become the minority.
It’s to the point where you can’t even get into an old-fashioned screaming match on the street without fear that someone might get their feelings hurt bad enough to whip out a gun and start shooting. To say it’s the wild west out there would be a gross understatement. It’s more like Thunderdome. The depravity surrounding gun violence continues to spiral further into profound depths of extreme dipshittery—experiencing an increase of 20% since 2019— yet more states are passing laws making it easier, not harder for civilians to carry a gun. Over half the nation now allows adults as young as 18-years-old to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
Alabama is the latest state to make gun ownership as easy as catching a cold. It’s just one of many jurisdictions across the country where it is now perfectly acceptable to pack heat—although some restrictions apply—but don’t you dare pack a bowl. Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Utah (as well as others) have, over the years, relaxed their respective gun laws to allow people 18-years-old and up, those barely old enough to wipe their own ass, to forgo the licensing process once required to procure a firearm. Yet, strangely enough, these states don’t want their citizens, not even those presumably old enough to understand the basics of bathroom hygiene, to have the same kind of freedom when it comes to weed. No sir, anyone in these places who gets caught in possession of a little grass, rest assured the courts will be eagerly waiting to make their life a living hell. In Alabama, for example, getting caught with any amount of marijuana can result in a year in jail and fines up to $6,000. Even if a pot offender gets a slap on the wrist, that doesn’t mean he or she will escape jail and get off with a polite warning.
Those who get wrapped up in a pot charge, even low-level smears, where the prosecution pushes for probation rather than incarceration can still end up being forced to attend drug and alcohol classes, do community service and surrender their driver’s license privileges as part of their probationary terms. It’s how the man grinds drug offenders to a pulp through the gears of the system. These people may have seemingly caught a break in the eyes of outsiders, but they must still adhere to all sorts of nagging stipulations, including pass random drug tests during their probation period or else run the risk of being sent to jail to fulfill their sentence. Cages are the alternative for those without the money to pay steep restitution to the state for breaking their drug laws. Hey pal, pay up or get locked up. Your choice.
Those parts of the country where guns are widely accepted—even praised, third only to God and country—yet pot use is still considered a threat to the well-being of the public is about as backasswards as it gets. Even if some of the negative consequences of pot (legal or otherwise) that’s been reported over the years ended up being true, a stoned society is presumably still a heck of a lot less risky than one that is armed for no reason.
Are we to believe that just because some gray-headed slave owners from 1787 penned a document one night over a few stiff drinks stating that the people should all have the right to keep and bear arms, deadly weapons earn a free pass from here to eternity?
George Washington and the rest of the Constitution crew didn’t foresee that the gun industry would eventually modify the musket used in the American Revolution, turning it into a fearsome killing machine capable of firing 300 rounds of “die, you bastard, die” per minute. Just like they didn’t anticipate that cannabis growers would eventually produce weed strong enough to make people call 911. Not even the lawmakers responsible for banning weed in 1937 could have made that prediction. To be fair, we’ve made some rather impressive technological advancements over the years, some of which, had the founding fathers been made privy to prior to signing, may have inspired them to make a giant paper airplane of the Constitution, soak it in kerosene and fly it straight into a candle. Or perhaps they would have simply decreed, “The people have the right to do whatever the hell they want; they’re going to fuck it up anyway.”
Fast forward more than two-hundred years and the lawmakers of these tumultuous times have witnessed the death and destruction, the ridiculousness of holding on to pistol heritage, and yet the only heavy hand they continue to hold firm is on cannabis prohibition. Let’s be clear: Marijuana consumption doesn’t kill, and if there is a rising death toll anywhere because of it, the black market perpetuated through discrepancies between state and federal drug laws is ultimately to blame.
Many gun advocates argue that law-abiding citizens aren’t inclined to commit crime, so arming them, even without a permit, is absolutely no danger to society. Fair enough. It could also be argued that those philosophies equally apply to the average cannabis consumer. Give them the right to buy and possess marijuana just like alcohol, and most won’t cause any dust ups with the law. “I’ve never been in trouble for anything other than weed,” Dimitri, a 24-year-old from Greenville, Indiana tells us. “I’d be considered a model citizen if it wasn’t for these dumb pot laws.”
Meanwhile, law enforcement continues to piss and moan about the dangers of legal marijuana. Some of the latest reports, much like the previous reports we’ve all read over the years, have connected legal weed to everything from increased violence to human trafficking. The boys in blue also like to voice concerns about the distribution of firearms related to illicit marijuana trafficking, much of what continues to thrive within the gray areas of legalization. However, as much as they would like to convince the average citizen that weed is the culprit in the undoing of America, an affinity for a plant, legal or otherwise, is not what’s driving the nation’s lust for guns. No sir, we’ve been obsessed with gat machismo a long time. There are presently around 393 million weapons in the hands of civilian Americans, with three in ten adults claiming gun ownership. All of this equates to roughly 121 guns per 100 residents. Gun control laws have continued to weaken across the nation, and now more young men barely out of diapers are freely permitted to keep firepower on their belts to supplement the testosterone leading them to fight or fuck anything that moves. This is, without question, a dangerous step toward mayhem.
“They should probably raise the age on that,” Chris, a 48-year-old gun owner from Lexington, Kentucky, told High Times. “I’ve seen younger guys get into some trouble that probably wouldn’t have happened had it not been for them having a gun. I worked with one years ago, he was like 21, who showed his pistol during a road rage incident, and they came down on him hard. Guys are just too hot-headed at that age. But they’re [the government] never going to change that. How can they say you can’t own a gun until you’re 25 and still ship them off to war at 18?”
Listen, I don’t like guns. I’ve never owned one and never felt that I needed to arm myself, even if it was, as the gun rights people often claim, just for personal protection. And I come from the rural Midwest, too, the redneck capital of the world. Everyone has guns. It was even perfectly acceptable, at least in our obscure part of the country, to pull into school with a firearm in your vehicle if it was fitted with a gun rack. A lot of high school students in the late 80s, albeit typically the same ones who belonged to FFA, showed up with hunting rifles in tow, but none of them ever dreamed of bringing one into the classroom and opening fire on the other students. Not even when fist fights broke out in the parking lot after class—and that happened more times than I can count—did the gun owners reach for a boom stick to get the upper hand on their opponent. They just took the ass beating. Win or lose, everyone back then lived to fight another day.
Coming from this culture, I’ve never been the kind of guy to impede on someone’s right to do anything. Not even own a firearm. If guns were your thing, so be it. I didn’t want people trying to take away the things that I enjoyed, so giving them the same courtesy was my way of maintaining balance. Fair was fair. But that was before. Now, fewer gun restrictions have put more firearms in the streets and into the hands of the wrong people, and not everyone is as hesitant to reach for them as they were back in the day. At the same time, the federal government, still awfully hesitant to do much more about the nation’s gun problem than offer cheap condolences, remains hellbent on keeping nationwide cannabis prohibition intact, even while states move in the opposite direction. If we, as Americans, must live in a nation where we’re always at risk of staring down the business end of a gun, we should never need to concern ourselves with the legal repercussions of possessing a plant that’s legal for adults in over half the nation. Times have changed, like it or not, and the government should respond accordingly.
The effort to reform the nation’s cannabis laws made new strides in 2022 with the passage of recreational marijuana legalization ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri in the November midterm elections. Success was not universal, however, as similar propositions on the ballot in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota failed to gain the approval of voters.
Looking at 2023, new milestones have already been achieved this year, with Connecticut launching regulated retail sales of adult-use cannabis on January 10, a move that was preceded by the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions in the state at the dawn of the new year. And as we head further into 2023, several states across the country are likely to make new ground in the struggle to end cannabis prohibition.
A New Focus
Brian Vicente, a founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm, Vicente Sederberg LLP, says that despite spending millions of dollars on lobbying federal lawmakers in 2022, the efforts of cannabis activists were unable to result in the passage of any meaningful marijuana policy reform at the next level. With the change in the political climate in Washington, D.C., efforts this year will take a new focus.
“With Republicans taking over the House, any federal reform in the two years seems exceedingly unlikely. Fortunately, movement leaders have begun coalescing around a strategy to cut back on federal lobbying and instead push resources toward state-level reform,” Vicente said in an email. “These efforts are aiming to flip as many as 10 states to adult-use in just three years, which would not only open new markets for consumers, but also create intense pressure on Congress to pass legislation aligning federal law with the thirty-odd states where cannabis is legal for adults.”
As the new year begins, more than a half-dozen states are likely to consider legislation to reform their marijuana laws, with most activity centering in the South and Midwest regions. Outside those broad areas, Hawaii could be poised to make progress on the issue with a new governor at the helm, Democrat Josh Green, who included support for expanding the state’s current legalization of medical marijuana to include adult-use cannabis as part of his campaign for office last year. On January 11, Democratic state Rep. Jeanné Kapela announced her plans to introduce a recreational marijuana legalization bill, saying, “this year, we stand on the precipice of history.”
“We now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands,” Kapela said in a statement quoted by Marijuana Moment. “Legalizing cannabis is not just a matter of money, it is a matter of moralities.”
Snowden Stieber, a regulatory analyst with cannabis compliance technology firm Simplifya, notes that the bill has some hurdles to clear before it can get to Green’s desk, however.
“The Hawaii Senate President, Ron Kouchi, has already come out with statements expressing skepticism on any fast movement for cannabis legalization, and many elected officials are still waiting on the upcoming report from the Dual Use of Cannabis Task Force to guide their votes in the new year,” he said in an email. “While it is of course possible that the task force recommends full legalization, prior experience in other states would suggest that legislators will take their time with any report’s findings and that a sudden move toward legalization is unlikely.”
Vicente believes three states in the South—Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina—could pass legislation to legalize medical marijuana this year. With the nearby states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida already demonstrating that a regulated marijuana industry can provide jobs and tax revenue, other states in the region are likely not far behind.
South Carolina, where Rep. Nancy Mace has become one of the few Republicans in Congress advocating for cannabis policy reform at the national level, is one of the few remaining states that still hasn’t legalized marijuana in any form. But reform is popular with the state’s residents, with a Winthrop University poll conducted before last year’s midterm elections showing that more than 75% of voters support the legalization of medical cannabis. This year, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have pre-filed separate medical marijuana legalization bills for the 2023 legislative session. But Simplifya regulatory analyst Justin Bedford isn’t optimistic about the fate of the legislation.
“Though these may seem like promising developments, history suggests that South Carolina still has a long way to go before any form of commercial legalization occurs,” he wrote in an email. “All 14 cannabis-related bills that were deliberated during the 2022 legislative session failed to pass, with most dying in the early stages of development. Nothing has changed in the state’s sociopolitical environment that would suggest anything will be different this year.”
In North Carolina, the state Senate passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in June 2022, but the House of Representatives declined to take up the legislation. Brian Fitzpatrick, chairman and CEO of cannabis software developer Qredible Inc, notes that public support for medical marijuana legalization is strong, and if a bill makes it to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, he’s likely to sign it into law.
“A poll carried out in January 2021 by Elon University found that 73% of North Carolinians supported medical cannabis,” Fitzpatrick said in an email. “A subsequent poll in May 2022 showed that support had increased to 82% across bipartisan lines. I believe that the governor is aware of this and will fully support the legalization of a medical cannabis bill in 2023.”
In Kentucky, where an executive order from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear decriminalizing medical marijuana went into effect on New Year’s Day, a bill to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis was unveiled by lawmakers on January 7. The measure, Senate Bill 51, would legalize and regulate the “possession, cultivation, production, processing, packaging, transportation, testing, marketing, sale and use of medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis,” according to a report from the online resource Business Insurance. With Kentucky being one of the nation’s largest hemp producers, industry insiders believe the legislation has a good chance of success this year.
The Midwest and Surrounding States
Several states in the Midwest could make advancements in cannabis policy reform in 2023. In Ohio, voters could get the chance to vote on a cannabis legalization measure championed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which was kept off the ballot for the November midterm election after legal challenges. Last week, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reintroduced the proposal, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and levy a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products. If the state legislature doesn’t approve the measure within four months, the coalition can collect signatures to put the proposal before the votes in the fall. Trent Woloveck, chief commercial director of cannabis commerce platform Jushi, believes legalization efforts have an even chance of success in Ohio this year.
“It is very unlikely that the legislature acts on the initiated stature in the next four months, but reasonably likely that the Coalition will be able to gather the additional required signatures for the effort to make the ballot,” he says. “While polling would suggest a ballot initiative legalizing cannabis would pass, the Senate president and other legislators disagree. And, even if voters approved an initiated statute, the legislature would have unrestricted authority to repeal or materially revise legalization.”
Like Hawaii, Pennsylvania has a new governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has expressed support for legalizing recreational marijuana. The issue has been stymied in years past by Republican lawmakers, but a new Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives may help the chances at success.
“While we’ve heard some interest from both sides of the aisle in previous years, conversations about legalization seem to be happening among a much larger group of legislators with increased frequency and specificity,” Woloveck says. “It also sounds like many legislators, including several previously unwilling to engage in any cannabis-related discussions, now acknowledge something has to be done about the illicit market and to stop revenue from flowing to neighboring states where people can buy legal, regulated cannabis for non-medical purposes.”
After legalizing low-potency THC edibles last year, cannabis policy experts say Minnesota could be the most likely state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2023. The state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) is now in charge of both the legislative and executive branches of government, and party leaders including Gov. Tim Walz have said that cannabis legalization will be a priority for 2023. Last Wednesday, a bill sponsored by DFL lawmakers Rep. Zack Stephenson and Sen. Lindsey Port received the approval of a legislative committee, with more hearings on the measure to come.
In Oklahoma, where 10% of adults hold cards to participate in the state’s liberal medical marijuana program, voters will decide on a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in March. If passed, State Question 820 would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. The measure also contains provisions to expunge past convictions for marijuana-related offenses. Proponents of the measure had hoped it would appear before voters during the November midterm elections, but a delay in certifying petition signatures and legal challenges from opponents prevented its inclusion on the ballot.
Lawmakers in other states including Georgia and Delaware could also take up measures to legalize marijuana this year, although the prospects for success in 2023 seem unlikely given the political climate in those states. But progress in cannabis policy will probably continue if the trend seen over the last decade goes on.
“Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis, we’ve seen an average of two states per year pass adult-use laws,” Vicente notes. “I predict that 2023 will continue this trend with both Oklahoma and Minnesota looking very likely to legalize.”
A string of recent media reports has brought attention to a troubling development out of Alabama: for months, pregnant women in the state have been jailed for smoking cannabis.
Most of the coverage has centered around Ashley Banks, a 23-year-old Alabama woman who was arrested in late May “with a small amount of marijuana and a pistol without a permit to carry,” according to AL.com.
“Under normal circumstances, the 23-year-old from Gadsden would have been able to post bond and leave jail until her criminal trial,” the outlet reported. “But Banks admitted to smoking pot on the same day she found out she was pregnant – two days before her arrest. In Etowah County, that meant she couldn’t leave jail unless she entered drug rehab, leaving her in limbo for three months.”
According to The Washington Post, that is a result of a law in Etowah, where nearly all “pregnant or postpartum women who are charged with endangering their fetus via drugs have to remain in jail until they complete a drug-treatment program, without an assessment of whether that condition is appropriate for them.”
So, Banks languished in the county detention center for three months “while she endured severe vaginal bleeding and two emergency room visits that left her fearful for her high-risk pregnancy,” The Washington Post reported, adding that a “court-contracted substance abuse agency twice told her that she didn’t qualify for treatment because she wasn’t addicted to drugs, leaving her in limbo until a judge granted her release Aug. 25 on conditions that did not include drug treatment.”
Banks is apparently not the only one to be subject to such treatment.
The Guardian reports on another woman, Hali Burns, who “was taken to the Etowah county jail just six days after giving birth to her son, with police saying that she had tested positive for a drug used by pregnant women with opioid addictions to help manage cravings and withdrawal.”
“When she was thrown in jail, Burns was still physically recovering from giving birth. But the jail had no facilities for her to pump or tend to her wounds. Her partner tried to bring pads and underwear to her, so that she wouldn’t have to bleed into her clothes, but Etowah county authorities wouldn’t let her have them. The risk for infection was great – the indignity was even greater,” The Guardianreported.
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a legal nonprofit organization, describes Etowah County “ground zero of pregnancy criminalization,” according to The Washington Post, with more than 150 such cases in the past decade.
“The prosecution’s alleged justification for this is that this is needed to protect the women’s ‘unborn’ and born children,” said Emma Roth, a staff attorney at National Advocates for Pregnant Women, as quoted by The Washington Post. “When the reality is: This puts the health and well-being of these women at risk, and their pregnancies and their children at risk.”
According to The Guardian, the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade “didn’t create this state of affairs, but it’s likely to worsen it.”
“The policy in place in Etowah county and elsewhere reveals the warped logic and hateful absurdities of the anti-choice worldview,” the outlet said. “The movement claims to see embryos and fetuses as persons, and in practice they speak as if these “persons” are not women’s equals, but their superiors: the fetus is conceived of as more important than the woman, more worthy, less tainted by those things that make a pregnant woman so unappealing – her femaleness, her sexuality, her tendency to have human desires and human struggles, like irritation or addiction or anger. In the service of protecting and advancing this superior being of the fetus, the anti-choice movement claims, it is justifiable, even necessary, to steal the freedom of those lesser women.”
Regulators in Alabama last week signed off on rules for the state’s new medical cannabis law.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission approved 171 pages worth of rules, which pertain to licensing and regulation of the industry.
The approval of the rules came “after months of development and public input,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
“The commission will offer up to 12 licenses to grow medical cannabis; up to four licenses for processing it; up to four for distribution. The state will also offer five licenses for “integrated facilities,” which will combine all three services with transportation. There will be no restriction on licenses to transport or test medical cannabis,” the newspaper reported.
Under the law, patients with the following conditions may qualify for the treatment: autism; cancer-related weight loss or chronic pain; Crohn’s; depression; epilepsy or conditions causing seizures; HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss; panic disorder; Parkinson’s; persistent nausea not related to pregnancy; PTSD; sickle cell; spasticity associated with diseases including ALS, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries; terminal illnesses; Tourette’s; and chronic pain for which conventional therapies and opiates should not be used or are ineffective.
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the legislation. “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.”
In March, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission established a timeline for when applications will be received and sales will begin. The commission said at the time that the state was “on pace to start accepting applications for dispensary licenses by September, with regulations for the program to be made public this summer,” and that “patients could get a cannabis card by spring 2023.”
The commission has since said that the start date for medical cannabis sales remains “uncertain.” According to the Montgomery Advertiser, “medical cannabis is not expected to be available to Alabamians until late 2023, at the earliest.”
The newspaper reported that the “commission will begin soliciting interest in license applications on Sept. 1,” while the “applications themselves are expected to go out on Oct. 24 and be due by Dec. 30,” and that actual “licenses will probably not be awarded until June.”
Under the rules approved last week, the commission “will offer up to 12 licenses to grow medical cannabis; up to four licenses for processing it; up to four for distribution,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser, while the “state will also offer five licenses for ‘integrated facilities,’ which will combine all three services with transportation.”
The newspaper has more details on the rules: “There will be no restriction on licenses to transport or test medical cannabis. The cannabis will have to be grown in pots or raised beds in secure facilities, which could push costs up significantly: Estimates of the cost of integrated facilities go as high as $20 million. Those security requirements were a major point of discussion at a July 14 meeting of the commission. Draft rules included requirements for three-inch steel doors on cannabis facilities, which one speaker said did not exist. The draft rules also would have required at least two security guards at cannabis facilities 24/7, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.”
In a stunning display of potential privacy conflicts, Senator Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) revealed a measure that would require women from ages 25 to 50 to furnish proof of a negative pregnancy test to a dispensary in order to be eligible to receive medical cannabis in Alabama. This test must be from either a doctor or a medical lab, and would have to be taken 48 hours before purchase. Yes, you read that correctly.
Senate Bill 324 is a piece of work generating a great amount of backlash within multiple communities. The Senate committee passed the bill in a 7-2 vote last week and has since been met with plenty of criticism.
Organizations across the country responded accordingly. One example is the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), calling the bill “blatantly unconstitutional and unprecedented.”
Others had similar reactions to the bill. “We are very concerned that this is an invasion of the privacy of Alabama women and their right to equal protection under the law,” NAPW attorney Emma Roth told AL.com.
Beyond the negative pregnancy test, women of the “childbearing age” would have to also report to their physicians if they become pregnant. Furthermore, new moms who are in the stages of breastfeeding would also be banned from purchasing medical cannabis.
How these bans are enforced—with inevitable consequences—is not discussed in the bill.
Medical cannabis is a new topic in the state of Alabama—with Governor Kay Ivey just signing the legislation in May 2021. There was a lot of pushback from lawmakers and, since the signing, a number of exceptions have been made.
For example, only oral cannabis products (i.e. tinctures, capsules, etc.) are allowed. Smoking and vaping products along with edibles are currently banned under state law and still not available for purchase.
However, this new legislation that would require women to provide pregnancy tests may be taking the regulations concerning Alabama’s medical industry too far. And there’s plenty of concerned folks out there looking to ensure this bill doesn’t pass.
Alabama Regulations Will Likely Drive People Away from Medical Cannabis
The reasoning behind this bill is pretty straightforward: The CDC says that consuming cannabis while pregnant has been shown to cause a number of health problems in newborns, including lower birth weights and unusual neurological developments. It’s a highly contested issue, and many women choose to abstain during pregnancy.
Even when it comes to cannabidiol (CBD), the medical community cannot determine whether or not these products produce negative effects in pregnant or breastfeeding women—there’s just not enough research.
So, why should Alabamans have to prove to their state government that they’re being responsible mothers and only using cannabis if they feel safe about it?
Many people agree that the invasiveness of the bill’s measure is obvious. Yet, it also produces an unnecessary inconvenience for women who need medical cannabis. Imagine this: each time they purchase cannabis, they’d also have to buy (and set aside the time to take) a pregnancy test. In many regards, this is an added burden for women.
To take things further, Alabama has set other ridiculous limitations on its medical industry. For example, throughout the entire state, only four dispensary licenses will be allowed.
While there are already restrictions on where those dispensaries are allowed, Stutts’ bill plans to add further restrictions. Written in the document is a ban on dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a college or home-based child care.
All these rules will only have one outcome—a public that’s discouraged from purchasing legal cannabis for medical purposes. In turn, it would not be surprising to see the black market outdo the legal industry.