By Brandon Moseley

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission announced that they do not have any intention to seek legislation moving up the deadline for issuing licenses to medical cannabis growers, processors, and transporters.

The Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Stephen Stokes, had said in the August 25 meeting that the Commission wanted legislation to change the September 2022 deadline for the awarding the licenses in order to be able to get a 2022 medical marijuana crop planted.

Mark Jackson is the Executive Director of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA).

“We have got to make some decisions on what the medical education will look like,” Jackson told the Commission. “We are just now beginning that process. But obviously depending on your timeline, if that moves up, we will be ready for the rollout.”

Matt Hart, the attorney for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, has been tasked with writing the rules and regulations for the Commission.

“Our rules should be published and submitted to the Legislative Services Agency in November,” Hart told the Commission.

“At this point, we have decided to stand down and work with the legislation we have at hand,” said Vice Chairman Rex Vaughn. The legislation currently sets the deadline for awarding the permits as September.

“We have got a lot on our plate to do by then. We have at this point in time decided not to ask the legislature to open back up the legislation, because we could lose what we got.”

John McMillan, former Alabama State Treasurer, is now the Executive Director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

In the 2021 Alabama regular legislative session, the Alabama Legislature passed bipartisan legislation legalizing medical marijuana. Persons with a demonstrable medical need will be able to go to a specially-trained doctor to make a recommendation that they be given a medical cannabis card.

There were fears by medical marijuana supporters that opening up the legislation during an election year could present problems as some conservatives had strongly opposed the passage of the legislation in the House, where it passed only after a nine and a half-hour filibuster.

Chey Garrigan is the executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

“We support the decision by the commission to not open up the legislation at this time,” Garrigan told the 1819 News.  “We are excited to work with the Commission and new Executive Director John McMillan.”

“The Alabama Cannabis Coalition, Alabama Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition and Alabamians 4 Medical Cannabis Freedom, stand together in disappointment,” the groups said in a joint statement. “However, we also feel that the risk of losing what we all have worked so hard to gain would be detrimental to the patients and citizens of Alabama.” 

The commission is continuing to review medical marijuana legislation in other states, including Ohio and Minnesota. 

McMillan said that the Commission will likely be included in the Governor’s request for a supplemental appropriation for the 2022 budget year when the legislature meets for the regular session.

McMillan brought over three staff members that had previously worked with him at the Treasurer’s office and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.