Alabama Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Medical cannabis is legal in Alabama, but recreational marijuana remains banned in the state. The legal sale of medicinal marijuana will most likely begin in the first half of 2024
  • Only patients aged 19 years or older with certain debilitating medical conditions can access medical marijuana legally
  • Qualifying patients younger than 19 years need registered caregivers to access and use medical marijuana
  • Qualifying marijuana patients are prohibited from consuming cannabis-infused edibles and smokable marijuana flowers

Is Marijuana Legal in Alabama?

Marijuana is legal only for registered patients in Alabama, while recreational marijuana is illegal. In Alabama, medical marijuana became legal after the Governor signed Senate Bill 46 in 2021. The bill, which is now known as the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, permits legal amounts of weed for patients with certain qualifying medical conditions. Only registered patients 19 years and older with qualifying conditions can buy and use marijuana in Alabama. According to the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, qualified patients must carry a state-issued medical marijuana card to buy medical weed from licensed dispensaries. Patients under 19 can only buy medical cannabis through their registered caregivers who may be their parents or legal guardians. The medical marijuana law prohibits the use of edibles and smokable weed for registered cannabis patients.

Alabama Marijuana Laws in 2024

Alabama legalized medical marijuana after the Governor approved SB46 in 2021. The Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act sets up the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC). The AMCC will be in charge of establishing regulations that will ensure smooth access to safe medical marijuana for qualified patients. After creating necessary regulations in 2022, AMCC began accepting license applications from prospective marijuana businesses wishing to cultivate and process marijuana for medical purposes. As of December 2022, the regulatory agency has received more than 600 application requests.

The AMCC awarded the first licenses to cultivators, processors, integrated facilities, transporters, and dispensaries on June 12, 2023. However, it pulled back the decision a few days later, citing a need to review the selection process leading to granting these licenses. On August 10 2023, the AMCC awarded final cannabis licenses to 24 businesses authorizing them to grow, process, and sell medical marijuana in Alabama. Most of these were among entities granted licenses in June following the initial application process that was voided. Successful applicants were given 14 days to pay their license fees while unsuccessful ones have 14 days to appeal the decision.

According to the Alabama medical marijuana law, the AMCC can only award 37 licenses to approved dispensaries. Cities and counties in the state can vote for or against the establishment of marijuana dispensaries within their jurisdiction. Approved dispensaries are expected to comply with AMCC Regulations for Dispensaries. AMCC-approved dispensaries must be managed by certified dispensers who possess at least two years educational background in chemistry, biology, and pharmacology. Such certified dispensers must complete foundational courses in medical marijuana. Per AMCC’s 2022 regulations, approved dispensaries must:

  • Be open to only patients or caregivers with AMCC-issued medical marijuana cards
  • Not sell or deliver medical marijuana to residents from other states
  • Set up a comprehensive security plan which should include mounting surveillance cameras and maintaining 60 days of video footage
  • Employ a certified dispenser together with a security guard, who are always on duty when the dispensary is open.

In 2021, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners (ALBME) created regulations for doctors who will be recommending medical marijuana to patients. According to the ALBME rules, doctors must:

  • Obtain permits from the state’s Board of Medical Examiners
  • Complete a 4-hour course on medical cannabis and pass the test
  • Not receive payments from licensed marijuana dispensaries
  • Not recommend patients to a particular dispensary
  • Not be a stakeholder in any of the AMCC-licensed marijuana businesses.

After awarding licenses to marijuana businesses, the AMCC will create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Patient Registry later in 2023. Although recreational marijuana is illegal in Alabama, the state senators proposed Senate Bill 160 in 2022 to decriminalize small marijuana possession offenses. The bill intends to remove the jail sentence associated with less than 2 ounces of marijuana. Furthermore, it seeks to reduce the fine to $250 from $6,000. According to the proposed bill, offenders caught with smaller amounts of weed without a prescription will qualify for expungement. However, the bill discussion was postponed indefinitely in April 2022.

Timeline of Cannabis Law in Alabama

  • 1931: Alabama outlaws marijuana together with several other states in the U.S.
  • 2012: An Alabama lawmaker introduced House Bill 66 to other house representatives. HB66 was the first proposed bill intended to legalize medical marijuana. The bill, known as the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act, was rejected by the Senate committee in the same year
  • 2014: The 2014 Carly’s Law allowed non-intoxicating CBD oil for persons with seizure disorders. Asimilar legislation, known as Leni’s Law, was signed by the Governor in 2016. Both laws allow CBD oil with less than 3% THC for persons with debilitating conditions and epilepsy
  • 2015: The Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act, was introduced in the Senate as SB 326, but was rejected in the same year
  • 2019: Alabama senators and representatives introduced two separate bills to decriminalize marijuana possession. HB 96 and SB 98 both seek to reclassify punishments for illegal marijuana possession from misdemeanor to civil violation
  • 2021: Alabama legislators passed the medical marijuana bill, which was also approved by the Governor

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

Marijuana is not yet legal in the U.S. However, the U.S. Congress passed different bills in 2022 to legalize cannabis use for adults. In July 2022, the U.S. Senators introduced Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) to tax, decriminalize, and regulate marijuana. If the bill becomes law, states will be permitted to legalize weed without federal restrictions. The bill also aims to resolve common issues plaguing marijuana businesses such as access to financial services, federal taxes, and uniform federal regulations. The U.S. Representatives also passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (MORE Act) to a Senate Committee in April 2022. The MORE Act was initially introduced to other house members in 2021 after a similar bill was ignored by the majority of the senators. The MORE Act of 2021, if enacted, will:

  • Remove cannabis from the list of DEA’s Schedule 1 drugs, making cannabis a legal substance federally
  • Remove marijuana-related federal criminal punishments
  • Expunge records of persons convicted of marijuana crimes
  • Allow state governments to regulate marijuana cultivation, processing, sale, and transporting without federal interference
  • Stop federal agencies from denying applicants access to government benefits, school loans, or jobs due to marijuana consumption
  • Set up a 5% federal excise tax on cannabis sales. The tax will fund social services in communities that have been negatively affected by the long years of the war on drugs

Can I Use Cannabis in Alabama?

Alabama residents with valid medical marijuana cards from the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) can use marijuana. Patients eligible to use cannabis legally must have one of the qualifying conditions listed under Section 20-2A-3 (21) of the Alabama Code. In addition, patients must be 19 years or older to use medical cannabis. Minors with physicians' recommendations for medical cannabis can obtain marijuana through their designated caregivers. Every caregiver must be above 21 years and registered with the AMCC.

In Alabama, cannabis patients can only use up to 50 milligrams of marijuana products per day. However, physicians may prescribe up to 75 milligrams daily for persons diagnosed with a terminal illness. Smoking, vaping, and consuming raw marijuana flower is illegal according to the state’s medical marijuana law. Eligible patients can use Alabama medical marijuana only in these forms:

  • Capsule, oral tablet, or tincture
  • Non-sugar coated gelatinous cuboid cube, or lozenge
  • Oil, gel, cream, or similar topical forms
  • Nebulizer
  • Transdermal patch
  • Suppository
  • Oil or liquid only for an inhaler

Alabama residents without prescriptions or medical marijuana cards cannot use marijuana legally. Cannabis is a dried herbal plant, which contains different cannabinoid compounds, including THC and CBD. The THC constituent in marijuana is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties. Due to such mind-altering effects, cannabis was widely seen as a dangerous drug that induced consumers to commit violent crimes. In 1970, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug as required under the Controlled Substance Act.

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in Alabama Happens

Patients eligible to buy weed in Alabama can only do so at licensed marijuana dispensaries. However, as of early 2024, the sale of medical cannabis is yet to commence in Alabama. The state is in the process of awarding cannabis licenses to successful applicants. On December 12, 2023, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) scored all applicants for its dispensary, cultivator, processor, secure transporter, and testing laboratory licenses. Under the Alabama Medical Cannabis Law, the AMC can only approve four medical marijuana dispensaries (each with up to three dispensing locations) and five integrated facilities (each with up to five dispensary locations).

The legal sale of cannabis in Alabama is likely to commence in the first half of 2024. When sales begin, consumers will not be allowed to buy smokable cannabis flower, marijuana paraphernalia, hash and concentrates. Sales of recreational marijuana remain illegal in Alabama.

Penalties for Marijuana-related crimes in Alabama

Marijuana is legal for medical purposes in Alabama. Residents without prescriptions commit misdemeanor crimes when caught in possession of any amount of marijuana. Penalties for marijuana-related offenses stipulated under Title 13A Chapter 12 Article 5 of the Alabama Code include the following:

  • Possession of any amount of marijuana for personal use: First-time offenders may get up to 1 year jail sentence and a maximum fine of $6,000; subsequent offenses will lead to between 1 to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $7,500
  • Possession of any amount other than personal use: This is considered a class C felony under Alabama marijuana possession laws. Offenders will face jail sentences between 1 to 10 years and $15,000 fines
  • Possession with intent to distribute or sell: Selling any amount of cannabis is a class B felony offense, which will attract a fine of up to $30,000. Offenders will also face jail sentences between two to 20 years
  • Marijuana cultivation: Offenders convicted of small amounts of marijuana cultivated will face similar charges as illegal possession penalties. Offenders convicted of cultivating high amounts of marijuana will face similar charges as possession with intent to distribute
  • Marijuana manufacturing: Manufacturing any quantity of cannabis or marijuana product in Alabama is a 2nd-degree felony. Violators risk two years in jail with a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $30,000 fine payment
  • Gifting of marijuana: Gifting marijuana is a criminal offense since possession of marijuana that is not for personal use is illegal. Offenders risk paying up to $15,000 as a fine and between one to 10 years in jail
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana: According to Alabama DUI laws, individuals caught driving under the influence of marijuana will pay fines, face imprisonment, and may even have their driving licenses suspended
  • Possession of hash and concentrates: Hash and marijuana concentrates are regarded as Schedule 1 substances under Alabama law. Therefore, possession of these substances is a class D felony offense, which results in jail sentence between one to five years
  • Marijuana paraphernalia: Possession of marijuana paraphernalia in Alabama is a first-degree felony crime. A conviction will result in a one-year prison time and maximum fine of $6,000

Additional limitations include selling marijuana to a minor, which attracts a maximum fine of $60,000. Offenders may also face more than 10 years or life imprisonment. Selling, distributing, or cultivating between 2.2 pounds to 100 pounds of cannabis is considered drug trafficking in Alabama. A conviction will result in 10-99 years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000. Alabama marijuana trafficking laws also permit the confiscation of assets involved in drug trafficking offenses.

Individuals facing marijuana charges in Alabama should contact experienced drug defense attorneys. A legal representative can help them reduce the punishments or get the charges dismissed. Other possible remedies for defendants of violating Alabama marijuana laws include applying for the state pretrial diversion programs available in some district courts. To qualify for the diversion program, offenders must not have any prior convictions, plead guilty to the offense, pay all expenses associated with the program, and agree to the program’s requirements. Offenders who complete the diversion program will have their marijuana charges dropped and offenses expunged.

What is Alabama’s Cannabis History?

Alabama’s intolerance towards marijuana use and possession can be traced to the influx of Mexican immigrants after the 1910 Mexican Revolution. In 1931, the Governor signed House Bill 29, which described marijuana as a narcotic that is ‘highly injurious.’ Since then, marijuana sale, use, cultivation, or possession became illegal in Alabama. Six years later, marijuana became illegal all over the country after the U.S. Congress passed the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.

After many decades, several states began decriminalizing marijuana while others created legal marijuana markets. In Alabama, the first attempt to legalize marijuana only for approved medical patients came in 2012. House Bill 66, known as the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act, was presented by a house representative in February 2012. The Senate committee rejected the bill later that year.

In 2014, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 174. Known as Carly’s Law, the legislation provides a legal defense for minors suffering from epilepsy and has recommendations to use CBD oil. The law also authorizes the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to carry out research on how CBD works. Through Carly’s law, eligible persons can only access non-psychoactive CBD oil if recommended by a UAB medical practitioner. An improvement to Carly’s Law came in 2016 after House Bill 61 became law. Under HB 61, known as Leni’s Law, patients do not need exclusive recommendations from UAB. Also, the use of low-THC CBD oil became legal for patients diagnosed with debilitating conditions.

In 2019, the Alabama legislature introduced SB 236 to create a Medical Cannabis Study Commission that will work towards investigating the benefits of medical marijuana. In the same year, legislators presented different bills to decriminalize illegal marijuana possession. The majority of Alabama lawmakers rejected the marijuana decriminalization bills in 2019. In 2021, the state Governor approved SB 46, which created the medical marijuana program under the administration of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. Known as the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, the bill allows a limited amount of marijuana products for patients who are 19 years or older. Without a prescription, it is still illegal to buy and consume cannabis in Alabama.

What are the Restrictions on Cannabis in Alabama?

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Alabama. On the other hand, AMCC-approved patients are eligible to buy and use medical marijuana according to a physician’s recommendation. Although medical marijuana is legal, patients must take note of the following restrictions still in place.

  • Patients must be aged 19 or older to buy and use medical marijuana
  • Patients must first obtain a medical marijuana card through the Alabama Medical Cannabis Patient Registry before they can access medicinal marijuana
  • Patients below 19 years old can only use medical marijuana under the supervision of their registered caregivers
  • Patients must not use more than 50 milligrams of approved marijuana product per day
  • Smokable marijuana flower and marijuana-infused edibles are illegal for both medical and recreational purposes
  • Marijuana cultivation is illegal for medical patients and adults
  • Only licensed dispensaries can sell medical marijuana; selling or distributing cannabis without a proper license is illegal
  • Gifting marijuana is illegal in Alabama
  • Marijuana consumption in public places is prohibited for both persons approved by the AMCC and adult consumers.
  • Marijuana is illegal across the U.S., and so, transporting cannabis across Alabama state lines is unlawful
  • It is unlawful to drive while intoxicated with marijuana
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