Alabama senators on Thursday approved a controversial bill in committee that would require women of “childbearing age” to show proof that they’re not pregnant in order to buy medical cannabis products from dispensaries.
It was also amended to make it so doctors would not be permitted to issue medical cannabis recommendations to women between 13-50 “without first obtaining a negative pregnancy test from the patient.”
The Senate Children, Youth, and Human Services Committee passed the amended SB 324, sponsored by Sen. Larry Stutts (R), in a 7-2 vote. It then advanced to a second reading in the full chamber hours later but still requires a third reading vote before potentially being transmitted to the House.
The bill contains several pieces of language that would create restrictions for women who participate in the state’s limited medical marijuana program, which was enacted last year. In order to purchase medical cannabis products under the bill, women between the ages of 25 and 50 would be required to produce “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 legislation further specifies that the negative pregnancy tests required for women trying to buy medical cannabis “must be dated within 48 hours of purchase before she may purchase any medical cannabis except in the capacity as a registered caregiver.”
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It goes on to say that “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.”
Marijuana Moment made repeated requests for comment from Stutts’s office in the lead up to the committee vote, but a spokesperson said the senator “will not be able to make comment on this bill” because of scheduling complications.
The proposal also 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.”
“All Alabamians should be alarmed that the Senate is considering a bill that would blatantly violate the Constitutional rights of women who need medical marijuana,” Emma Roth, a staff attorney at National Advocates For Pregnant Women (NAPW), told Marijuana Moment. “SB 324 is not grounded in science, and will not actually improve maternal or infant health outcomes.”
“In fact, SB 324 would block pregnant women who need prescribed medical marijuana from receiving it, even when she and her doctor agree it is in the best interest of her health and her pregnancy,” Roth said. “Pre-existing medical conditions do not disappear when someone becomes pregnant.”
Stutts, who is an obstetrician, said in a recent interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 that “we need some parameters” on the medical cannabis program, which he does not support.
“But it is in place,” he said. “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.”
This isn’t the first attempt to impose cannabis access restrictions on targeting women.
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.
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.
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a limited medical cannabis legalization bill in May 2021.