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US (AL): The long wait for medical cannabis

The Alabama Legislature approved a medical cannabis program in 2021. When the product is available, patients certified by participating physicians will be able to use medical cannabis for 15 conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression, and Parkinson’s Disease. Patients will have to apply for a card to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensers.

The law bans smoking cannabis or consuming it in food. Cannabis will be available in tablets, capsules, gelatins like gummies, oils, gels, creams, suppositories, transdermal patches, or inhalable oils or liquids. Cannabis gummies will only be allowed to be peach-flavored.

But the delivery of the product has yet to occur. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) began accepting applications in late 2022. The AMCC initially issued licenses in June but voided them due to scoring inconsistencies, later rescinding awards again in August amid a lawsuit over Open Meetings Act violations. The AMCC issued new licensing rules in October. The commission issued licenses a third time in December, but litigation halted the licensing process again in January for dispensaries and integrated facilities.

The litigation over the charges has ground the process to a halt. Even if the lawsuits are resolved, it could be several months before legal medical cannabis appears in the state. Aaron Smith, co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that it’s possible to get an indoor harvest in as little as three months. But he expects it may take longer for some cultivators, especially in the first round, because of inexperience with factors that can impact growth, such as climate and soil conditions.


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