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 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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.