Legislation to legalize production, dispensing and use of medical cannabis passed the Senate Thursday by a 22-11 vote.
SB 165 by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, would make medical marijuana available to people with more than a dozen qualifying conditions who have a physician certification. The bill would authorize distribution of cannabis pills, oils, patches, creams and inhalers through licensed dispensaries. It specifically prohibits the use of raw marijuana as well as food products containing cannabis, such as cookies and candy. Smoking or vaping marijuana also would remain illegal.
The legislation authorizes the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to regulate the cultivation of medical cannabis and requires a seed-to-sale system to track all aspects of production, from cultivation to sale of final product.
Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, successfully added two amendments aimed at ensuring medical marijuana, if legalized, would be grown by Alabama farmers.
One amendment requires those applying for a cultivator license to show proof of continuous, full-time business experience in the field of commercial horticulture or agronomic production for a period of at least 15 years. The substitute offered by Melson on the Senate floor set the grower requirement at eight years.
A second amendment would establish a similar, eight-year requirement for businesses applying to grow, process and distribute medical cannabis at five state-approved integrated facilities.
The legislation now heads to a committee in the House of Representatives, where a similar bill stalled last year.