After years of dissatisfaction at being one of the least cannabis-friendly states in the country, residents of Alabama finally have something to be somewhat happy about in terms of their prospects of acquiring medical marijuana.
In early May 2019, the Alabama Senate approved a bill (SB 236) that would provisionally allow for select patients (see below for a full list of qualifying conditions) to be able to buy, possess, and use medical cannabis products in the state. Unfortunately, the MMJ program is a long ways from coming to fruition, and residents should likely not expect medical marijuana in Alabama to be available until 2021 at the earliest.
That said, in this article, we discuss all the latest updates about the current situation, what you can expect to see in the future, and what you can start doing now in terms of preparation to apply for medical marijuana and legal CBD oil in Alabama once the process gets underway.
A Brief History on CBD Oil and Medical Cannabis in Alabama
Historically, Alabama has never been too kind for those wishing to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The only people who have had access to any sort of legal cannabis in the state have been those participating in Carly’s Law, which was a 2014 Act that allows patients to receive experimental cannabis oil treatment for epilepsy conditions.
Results of the ongoing study – which focused on 132 patients, 72 of which were children – were overtly positive, with one media outlet citing “significant improvements in seizure frequency […] in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy.”
Of course, this is not new news, as the FDA actually approved a CBD-based prescription drug called Epidiolex back in 2018. Designed to treat two rare forms of epilepsy – Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome – patients across the U.S. can now receive prescription cannabis oil upon the issuance of a doctor.
If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the Governor, however, Alabama’s new medical marijuana bill would allow access to far more than epilepsy patients.
SB 236: The Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill
Passed by the Alabama Senate on May 9, 2019, SB 236 proposes the “use of [medical cannabis] for certain conditions, [as well as] defense against prosecution for marijuana possession [for qualified patients].”
As for who would qualify for medical marijuana in Alabama, the current version of the bill would include the following conditions for consideration:
- Degenerative or pervasive neurological disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle disorders
- Opioid addictions
- Pain syndromes
- Pain associated with other conditions
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Of course, patients looking to apply for medical marijuana in Alabama would have to meet with at least one qualified physician, who would have to register and complete a 10-hour course designed to increase the knowledge of cannabis as a medical drug. This has raised questions about how many doctors would be willing to recommend medical cannabis in Alabama.
Only time will tell what sorts of options will be available to prospective patients once the program is up and running.
And speaking of ‘up and running,’ this is another drawback to the medical marijuana program in Alabama, as medication likely won’t be available until 2021 at the earliest. In fact, changes to the current below have already been made, which proposes the need to “create a patient registry system [for] qualified patients.”
Regarding what’s next for the medical marijuana program in Alabama, SB 236 still needs to be passed by the Alabama House of Representatives, as well as signed into law by current Governor Kay Ivey. In other words, Alabama residents are still a long way off from gaining access to legal medical cannabis, even if the passing of the new Bill was a huge step in the right direction.
What About CBD Oil in Alabama… Can You Buy it, and is it Legal?
While prospective patients wait for the passing of SB 236 by the Alabama House, and while they wait for it to be signed into law by the Governor, it’s relevant to point out that there are other options for Alabama residents looking to start experimenting with the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
In fact, CBD oil is actually readily available from a variety of manufacturers who sell to the majority of U.S. states. These oils are available without the need for a prescription, medical recommendation, or MMJ license.
‘How is this possible?’, you might be wondering.
Well, most medical cannabis products – even CBD oils – come from marijuana strains that contain THC levels above the legal threshold. THC, as you probably know, is the chemical component in cannabis that provides the iconic “high.”
However, CBD oil can also be made from hemp, which is a distinct variety of the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. In other words, it may be able to provide many of the health benefits of cannabis, but it cannot get you high.
The 2018 Farm Bill and Hemp-Derived CBD in Alabama
Furthermore, updates to the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill have legalized hemp and removed it from the DEA’s list of Controlled Substances, meaning that dozens of companies are now selling hemp-extract CBD oils as nutritional supplements. As stated before, these hemp-based CBD oils are available both online and in-store to residents of most states – including Alabama.
The only drawback is that, due to a lack of regulations on hemp-based supplements, it can be difficult for patients to distinguish between reliable, high-quality CBD oils and products that are advertised as “CBD oils” but really only contain hemp seed extract.
Unfortunately, many of the products that you’ll find for sale in health food stores, smoke shops, gas stations, etc are not of high quality and will be unlikely to provide any significant therapeutic benefits. We recommend buying from one of a handful of online distributors, who provide lab reports on both the purity and quality of their hemp-extracted CBD oils.
CBD Oil, Alabama, and Medical Cannabis: A Final Summary
To summarize, residents of Alabama have reason to celebrate as SB 236 has been passed by the Alabama Senate. The Bill establishes a protocol for legalizing medical marijuana for qualified patients, but it still needs to be passed by the Alabama House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor Ivey.
Even if the house passes the bill and signs it into law, however, medical marijuana in Alabama will still likely not be available to patients until 2021 at the earliest. State authorities will still need to set up guidelines for an application process, an oversight committee, and the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of legal cannabis in the state.
In the meantime, it’s relevant to point out that CBD oil in Alabama is already available, as long as it has been derived from hemp and has a THC content of less than 0.3%.
Several high-quality CBD oil manufacturers sell online and ship to Alabama, but we recommend doing your research and finding a reliable company with good reviews, as lack of regulation in this sector has prompted many brands to promote subpar products with little health benefits.