Alabama – Bill to legalize medical marijuana introduced in the Senate

An Alabama Senate bill introduced last week would allow patients to legally possess and use marijuana prescribed by a medical doctor.

The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act would apply to “qualifying patients” with serious medical conditions, ranging from severe nausea to AIDS. The bill was read Thursday and is being considered in the Senate’s judiciary committee.

SB-326 is sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D- Greensboro, and a companion bill is expected to be filed Monday by Rep. John Rogers, D- Birmingham. “There are doctors that want to prescribe marijuana for their patients because it works,” Singleton said in a written statement last week. “It just makes sense to let them.” The bill would establish three classes of marijuana amounts a physician could recommend for patients after a full medical evaluation.

Class 1 would allow a qualified patient or designated caregiver to buy a maximum of 2.5 ounces of cannabis per month, grow a maximum eight ounces and maintain up to eight plants. Class 2 would allow them to buy up to 5 ounces of cannabis per month, grow a maximum 12 ounces and maintain up to 12 plants. Class 3 would allow them to buy up to 16 ounces of cannabis per month, grow a maximum 16 ounces and maintain up to 16 plants. Patients and caregivers would be required to obtain identification cards from county health departments, which would be responsible for the application and approval process. Anyone denied could appeal the health department’s decision.

Cullman would be the only city in the county to qualify to open a dispensary, and it could only have one. The bill allows cities with 150,000 residents or more to have two, cities with at least 10,000 to have one and cities under 10,000 are not allowed to open one. Law enforcement couldn’t refuse to accept an ID card issued unless the officer had reason to believe the information on the card was false or fraudulent, or the card was being used fraudulently. A patient couldn’t use medical marijuana on their employer’s premises or during working hours. It would also be prohibited at any jail, correctional facility or other penal institution.

An employer, excluding “safety sensitive” companies, couldn’t discriminate against an employee approved to use medical marijuana. If an employee is discriminated, he or she could pursue civil action. A safety-sensitive position would be defined as any position in law enforcement or which “medical cannabis-affected performance could clearly endanger the health and safety of others.” Additionally, government and private health insurance would not be liable for any claim for reimbursement for the medical use of cannabis. The law wouldn’t allow a person under the influence of cannabis to drive a vehicle. Each municipality and county could enact regulations and ordinances governing medical cannabis dispensing centers, the manufacture and labeling of medical cannabis products and medical cannabis delivery services. However, they couldn’t outright ban dispensing centers or delivery services. A 5 percent sales tax would be applied to all medical marijuana sales. The revenue generated by this tax would be split equally between sheriff’s and city police departments to combat the illegal trafficking and production of controlled substances. Police departments would be allowed to sell confiscated cannabis to centers.

The manufacture of edible medical cannabis products would be regulated as the type of food or beverage being manufactured, with no additional requirements. The Department of Agriculture and Industries would enforce those regulations.

Medical cannabis cultivators that wanted to collectively cultivate cannabis plants would be divided into three classes. Class 1 would include less than 25 qualified patients and designated caregivers. Class 2 would include between 25 to 50 members and Class 3 would be for more than 51. Class 2 and Class 3 would have to register with the Department of Agriculture and Industries annually and pay fees based on their size.

If passed by the legislature, the law would go into effect the first day of the third month following its passage and Gov. Robert Bentley’s approval.

Senator Paul Bussman did not return calls seeking comment by deadline of this article.

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