Alabama’s governor said on Friday that she hopes to sign a medical marijuana bill that lawmakers sent to her desk this week, but only after she takes a close look at its provisions.
“I hope, after thoroughly reviewing it, we can sign the bill,” Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told WSFA-TV, adding that she’s aware of cannabis’s medical benefits but also has some concerns.
“It helps some people, but you just don’t want it to get out of control,” she said.
— Lydia Nusbaum (@LydiaNusbaum) May 7, 2021
The governor has expressed openness to past medical cannabis proposals, but earlier on Friday, a spokesperson for her office declined to say what action she would take on this latest bill.
“As with any piece of legislation that reaches the governor’s desk, we look forward to thoroughly reviewing it,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Marijuana Moment. “We appreciate the debate from the Legislature on the topic. This is certainly an emotional issue. We are sensitive to that and will give it the diligence it deserves.”
While the measure was approved with a two-to-one margin in both the House and Senate, some Republican lawmakers vigorously opposed its passage, staging a lengthy filibuster earlier this week that delayed the final votes.
The legislation hasn’t been formally transmitted to Ivey’s desk yet. But when it is, the state Constitution sets a tight deadline for gubernatorial action. While the legislature is in session, the governor has six days from the time she gets the bill to either approve, veto or take no action and let it go into law without her signature.
She could also propose line-item amendments and send it back to lawmakers, who could then approve or reject them.
While Ivey hasn’t been especially vocal about the issue, she was asked about a prior medical cannabis legalization bill in 2019 and said, “I’m still trying to get the details, but if it’s tightly controlled and limited to just those illnesses as verified by medical professionals, it’d be worth considering.”
If it’s a limited, regulated medical marijuana program that the governor wants, it stands to reason that the legislation heading to her desk will meet that standard. But in light of that earlier comment, it’s seems possible that any line-item amendments proposed by the governor could target the list of qualifying conditions.
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Under the legislation, patients would have to be diagnosed with one of about 20 conditions, including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. Regulators would not be able to independently add additional conditions, leaving that decision up to lawmakers in future sessions.
The bill also prohibits raw cannabis, smoking, vaping and candy or baked good products. Patients would instead be allowed to purchase capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories and topical patches.
For physicians to be able to recommend cannabis to patients, they would have to complete a four-hour continuing education course and pass an exam. The course would cost upwards of $500 and doctors would also be required to take refresher classes every two years.
For his part, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) recently called on lawmakers to send the bill to Ivey ahead of their final votes.
“I support legalizing medical marijuana to help those with cancer and other serious medical issues ease their pain,” he posted on Twitter. “The majority of the medical community agrees. The Alabama House should pass this important bill before the session ends.”
I support legalizing medical marijuana to help those with cancer and other serious medical issues ease their pain. The majority of the medical community agrees. The Alabama House should pass this important bill before the session ends. https://t.co/LRjOK6ji3d
— Will Ainsworth (@willainsworthAL) May 1, 2021
Ivey did sign a bill in 2019 that established a medical cannabis study commission. That piece of legislation was originally a medical marijuana legalization bill that cleared the Senate but then was gutted in the House.
Another bill was sent to the governor’s desk late last month that would expand expungement eligibility for certain convictions, including misdemeanor marijuana possession.
SB117 makes Class A misdemeanors like the unlawful possession of marijuana convictions I pardoned this week expungeable.
Now, it needs a signature.
— Randall Woodfin (@randallwoodfin) April 22, 2021
Ivey has not yet commented on her plan for that measure.