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After releasing the first draft of proposed rules regulating Alabama’s nascent medical cannabis industry, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission held its monthly meeting Thursday.

The commission is working on its seed-to-sale tracking system and a patient and caregiver registry. Patients will be issued an Alabama medical cannabis user card that includes their photo.

The commission heard from the Dispensaries Committee, which included presentations from the Ohio and Louisiana Boards of Pharmacy. The two states have different systems for dispensing medical cannabis.

While Ohio limits entry to its stand-alone dispensaries to medical cannabis cardholders or registered caregivers, Louisiana licenses certain pharmacies to dispense cannabis products along with common prescription drugs, although these pharmacies cannot dispense controlled substances such as opioids. Louisiana does not have patient registration, and physicians do not have to receive special training to recommend marijuana. Nurse practitioners and medical psychologists can also make marijuana recommendations.

Since cannabis legislation first passed in Louisiana in 2017, the state has passed several bills allowing them to sell a growing “variety of marijuana products and strains.”

The presentation included a graphic showing that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of marijuana recommendations and the number of patients using marijuana since Louisiana first legalized medical marijuana.

Dr. Steven Stokes, chair of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Commission, expressed surprise that 60% of patients receiving medical marijuana recommendations in Louisiana are less than 54 years of age and many are less than 40. The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy representative said that most of the patients under 40 have epilepsy.

Stokes expressed concern about medically underserved areas of the state, suggesting that nurse practitioners should be allowed to make marijuana recommendations.

Commission member Daniel Autrey said that the public will be allowed to address the commission about the proposed rules at a public hearing at the next commission meeting at 1 p.m. on July 14 at the Alabama State House. Members of the public who wish to speak on the rules can sign up online.

Will Webster with the Webster Henry Law Firm is working with the commission on the proposed rules.

Webster said that the commission will forward an updated draft of the rules to Alabama’s Legislative Services Agency (LSA) on June 21. In conjunction with the commission, LSA will then prepare an updated draft of the rules which will be released before the end of June. A 35-day public comment period will begin on June 30 and continue through Aug. 5. The commission will vote on the rules in their August meeting and will release the final version of the rules by Aug. 31. The commission will accept applications for medical marijuana grower, processor, integrator, transporters and dispensary licenses on Sept. 1.

“We are excited to work with prospective medical marijuana entrepreneurs on their permit applications and site selection,” President and Executive Director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Industry Association Chey Garrigan told 1819 News.

The town of Henager in Dekalb County held a town hall meeting on Tuesday to discuss locating an integrated marijuana growing and processing facility at an industrial park there. The Anejo Logistics team told Henager that the project would create between 100 and 200 jobs with wages starting at $15 an hour.

“I had a great time meeting the people of Henager and discussing with them the opportunities for their community to grow with the cannabis industry,” Garrigan said.

Alabama became the 37th state in the nation to pass medical marijuana legislation when the State Legislature passed, and Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed, Senate Bill 46 into law during the 2021 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

The bill created the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which was appointed by Ivey and other state leaders. The commission hired John McMillan to be the director of the commission.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.

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