Earlier this week, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission approved rules for the state regulation and licensing of medical marijuana. Alabama now moves one step closer to the legal cannabis industry.
After multiple revisions and weeks of public input, the lengthy document outlining the rules crossed the finish line on Thursday.
According to commission members, the document will likely face revisions as the industry grows. This vote will allow the board to send license applications by October.
In 2021, the state's medical cannabis law passed to allow the cultivation and retail sales of medical marijuana for sixteen conditions, including PTSD, cancer, sickle-cell anemia, depression, chronic pain, and terminal illness.
Patients wanting to consume medical cannabis for therapy must get approved by a physician. In addition, they will need to purchase a medical cannabis card for no more than $65.
Medical cannabis products will be limited to tablets, gels, gelatins, creams, oils, suppositories, or inhalable oils or liquids. The law prohibits smoking cannabis or consuming edibles.
The commission will distribute up to twelve licenses to cultivate medical cannabis—a maximum of four permits for processing and another four for distribution. The state will also have five "integrated facility" licenses up for grabs, combining all three services with transportation. There will be no limitation on permits for transporting or testing medical cannabis.
The cannabis plants will be required to be grown in raised beds or pots in secure facilities, which could drive expenditures up significantly: Rough estimates of the expense of an integrated facility run as high as $18-20 million.
The security provisions were a central point of debate at a recent commission meeting earlier this month. Preliminary rules stated requirements for three-inch steel doors on cannabis facilities.
The draft rules also would have mandated at least two security guards at cannabis facilities 24/7, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
The rules as passed now require facilities to have at least one security guard during operating hours, and substitute the steel door requirement for reinforced doors. They also distinguished between production and harvest batches and eliminated the need for cannabis dispensaries in stand-alone buildings.
On September 1, the commission will start soliciting license application interest. Applications most likely will go out on October 24 with a December 30 due date. Licenses will probably be awarded not until June of next year. Alabamians can expect medical cannabis products to be available at the end of 2023.