Alabama Bill Would Force Women Who Want Medical Marijuana To Show Negative Pregnancy Tests
An Alabama senator on Thursday introduced a bill that would require women “of childbearing age” to present proof that they’re not pregnant in order to purchase medical cannabis products—a proposal facing sharp resistance from drug policy and civil rights activists.
Sen. Larry Stutts (R) filed the bill, which would amend the state’s medical marijuana law that was enacted last year by mandating dispensaries to require any woman between the ages of 25 and 50 to provide “a negative pregnancy test either from her physician or documentation from a certified medical lab that has been ordered by a physician licensed in Alabama.”
“The documentation must be dated within 48 hours of purchase before she may purchase any medical cannabis except in the capacity as a registered caregiver,” it says, adding that breastfeeding women would also be barred from purchasing medical cannabis products.
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“Any registered qualified patient who becomes pregnant shall report her pregnancy status to her registered certifying physician and shall be prohibited from obtaining medical cannabis throughout the pregnancy,” the legislation also says.
In addition, the bill stipulates that no dispensaries could be located within 1,000 feet of a daycare center or two-year or four-year “institution of higher education.”
Emma Roth, a staff attorney at National Advocates For Pregnant Women (NAPW), told Marijuana Moment that the bill “would violate women’s right to privacy and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“It’s another attempt to police pregnancy in the name of the fetus when medical marijuana poses no greater harm than other common exposures during pregnancy,” Roth said. “And where would the state’s reach end? Would a negative pregnancy test be required to be around smokers, to drink coffee or to work a factory job?”
Roth cited a 2020 scientific review that concluded “current evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.”
Stutts, for his part, previously filed a virtually identical version of the new bill earlier this month. It’s unclear why it was reintroduced, but the versions were referred to different committees so it may have been a procedural decision.
“We need some parameters, and I’m still not in favor of the marijuana bill,” Stutts, who is an obstetrician, said in a recent interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5. “But it is in place. I think it can be improved, and one of the ways it can be improved is to limit pregnant people using it, limit their availability to it.”
“There’s plenty of data for the harmful effects of marijuana during pregnancy. And I just simply felt like we need to have some guidelines in the bill,” he said. “Yeah, the marijuana bill is law now but if we’re going to have that as the law, we need to set some parameters.”
Oklahoma regulators faced significant pushback in 2018 after proposing a rule that would have required women to complete a pregnancy test before receiving a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor. The department faced lawsuits—as well as opposition from the state attorney general’s office—and regulators ultimately revised the rule to eliminate the provision.
“Requiring women submit to a pregnancy test before their doctor may make a medical marijuana recommendation is discriminatory and a clear violation of the 14th Amendment,” ACLU of Oklahoma said following the rule proposal before it was eliminated.
Back in Alabama, the governor signed a limited medical cannabis legalization bill in May 2021.
Last month, a key Alabama Senate committee separately approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession and provide expungements for people with prior convictions, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.
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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.