The Alabama Legislature passed bill in May that allows medicinal cannabis in certain situations, but infrastructure still needs to be put in place before anyone can actually use it.
The Alabama Medical Commission met for the first time in August and a month later elected John McMillan, then treasurer of the state, as director of the commission.
McMillan said work began in earnest with the fiscal year beginning October 1.
The task ahead of them: Train and license doctors and set up approval procedures for manufacturers and dealers.
Fortunately for the Commission, the law passed by the legislature is thorough in many of these processes.
“It’s very specific and comprehensive legislation,” said McMillan. “It sets out what we have to achieve, schedules and everything. It’s the most comprehensive law I’ve ever seen for getting weeds. Our mission is to adopt this law and put it into effect. ”
The law is 100 pages long and defines many parts of the process. The product can come in a variety of forms – McMillan said the most common will likely be capsules and tinctures – and specifically non-raw vegetable matter, edibles, or anything that is smoked or vaporized.
Valid illnesses are autism, Crohn’s disease, depression, PTSD, epilepsy, HIV / AIDS, cancer, incurable diseases, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell anemia, spasticity, tourette, and even chronic nausea or pain. However, documentation is required to demonstrate that conventional treatment or therapy has not been successful.
The law does not oblige insurance companies to cover cannabis, nor does it prohibit employers from firing workers for cannabis use.
With the state requiring license applications to be available by September 2022, the Commission has a tight deadline.
“It’s a pretty tough job because once we’re done with our draft, it will take two to four months for the Legislative Services Agency to complete their process,” said McMillan. “There is a real urgency to prepare these rules and regulations.”
McMillan said the commission aims to have growers up and running by spring 2022 so that the product can be ready when the licenses are available in the fall.
When the bill passed in the House of Representatives, opponents voiced concerns about other states that passed similar laws and eventually focused on legalizing recreational marijuana.
The law specifically states that there is no intention of opening the door to recreational use, and McMillan stressed this.
“Some states, including Florida, have come back and changed their laws to allow smoking,” McMillan said. “That’s not something we advocate.”
McMillan said it was important to get the permitting and licensing process right because marijuana remains illegal outside of the stated uses.
“You need to be able to validate a product as legitimate or illegal at a traffic stop,” said McMillan.
The commission will meet again on Thursday, November 18th.