Legislators declined to consider legislation that would have placed greater restrictions on legal cannabinoids before voting to end the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session and going home for the year.

Senate Bill 278 (SB278) was sponsored by Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield). SB278 would have required that women produce a negative pregnancy test in order to obtain legal medical marijuana in the state. It also further limited where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located and prohibited nursing mothers from obtaining legal cannabis at all. That bill never got considered on the Senate floor before the session ended. 

Senate Bill 326 (SB326) did pass the Senate and received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee. SB326 was not added to the 19-bill special order calendar on the last day of the session in the Alabama House of Representatives. SB326 was sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) and would have forbidden the sale of legal psychoactive substances derived from legal hemp to persons under 21. It also capped the amount of THC in those products currently sold over the counter in Alabama. 

Cannabis industry lobbyist Melissa Mullins celebrated the failure of the two bills on the last day of the session.

“As Founder of Alabamians 4 Medical Cannabis Freedom & Disability Rights and [an] Alabama Registered Lobbyist, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Senators and Representatives for their hard work and dedication to the citizens & patients of Alabama,” Mullins said in a statement. “This has been a long legislative session that brought many challenges. We had several bills that we tracked from early on-thankfully NONE of them passed."

Chey Garrigan is the Executive Director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Industry Association.

“This [SB278] was a misplaced non-science-based bill,” Garrigan told 1819 News. “The big government nanny state types have for decades used that argument that they are ‘doing it for the children;’ meanwhile they have criminalized a plant that has been used successfully by physicians for three millennia, have trampled on individual liberties, needlessly incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people and ensnared millions of Americans in the criminal justice system on possession charges while militarizing the police and empowering the DEA and drug task forces to kick in the doors of Americans for their senseless crusade."

Dr. Michael Brown told the 1819 News that he supported and helped craft SB278 and was disappointed that the Senate never considered it on the Senate floor.

“The 'conservative' Alabama state legislators once again achieved high marks from their marijuana lobby handlers by failing to pass any bills that would provide for even the slightest restrictions on access to marijuana in our state,” Brown said.

Brown said it is clear why these laws need to be in place.

"For his part in sponsoring this bill, Sen. Stutts, who also happens to be an obstetrician and might know a thing or two about the risks of in utero exposure to harmful substances, received all manner of attacks from the proponents of marijuana consumption," Brown said. "However, it should be noted that women are restricted from taking certain medications that have potential for causing harm to the developing child such as Accutane, for example, so this is actually not some new approach.”

Neither bill ever got to the governor for her consideration, but Brown claims that neither bill was supported by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R).

“The indications from the governor’s office was that there was no desire to do anything to impede access to marijuana so these bills would likely not have been signed into law even if they had been passed by the legislature,” Brown said. “The political elite in our state have decided that they just want to go ahead and allow pregnant women to use marijuana and see what happens. No one should be concerned especially since they are providing for mental health workers to be in our schools who should be able to assist in the care of any children who suffer from dysfunctional brain development due to in utero exposure to marijuana.”

Christine Carr also advocated for enhanced regulation of cannabinoids.

“Researchers are finding that the correlation between maternal marijuana use and autism rates are so strong, causation is now being discussed as a factor,” Carr said. “The landmark ABCD Canadian study already points to the increased risks of exposure to the unborn. With more data now adding on autism as an increased risk, Alabama is facing a future health crisis.”

Carr said that the marijuana industry likes to confuse people with pseudo-science or partial data but claim certainty with efficacy and safety. Carr said this is the best way to make money and secure an ever-addicted client base but it is not the best medical practice.

“A female cannot get a certain acne medicine or undergo minor surgical procedures unless a negative pregnancy test is confirmed,” Carr said. “Dr. Stutt's bill would have provided for genuine safety measures. Other states, such as Florida, have failed miserably in protecting babies and children. Unfortunately, Sen. Melson and Kay Ivey chose to side with the interests of the marijuana industry over children yet again.

“There is a way to safely utilize the benefits of cannabis and marijuana-based medicines without an unscrupulous pot-shop industry. Use the already existing FDA-approved medical cannabis first. There is a way to educate physicians as well as the public with non-biased and evidence-based information. Use the highly respected organization IASIC [International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis] as a partner in education.”

1819 News asked Carr why this topic matters so much to her.

“Why is this so important? Why do I care?” Carr answered. “I am not a lobbyist or politician. I am someone that has dedicated her life to helping others. By fighting for better safety measures and educating policymakers, it means one less child a parent has to bury, one less funeral for a police officer, and one less life ruined by addiction. If we can't rise up to protect our most vulnerable, who can we help?”

Garrigan said, “All of these studies about the negative health effects of cannabinoids are based on recreational users. A recreational user is going to use far more THC than is allowed for a nonterminal patient the bill that was passed last year [was intended to help]. All of these patients will be under a doctor’s care for a diagnosed medical condition and the state should not get between the doctor-patient relationship.”

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission will begin issuing licenses to medical cannabis growers, processors, transporters, integrated facilities, and dispensaries in September. The commission hopes that Alabama’s first legal medical cannabis will begin being sold as early as November of this year.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission during the implementation of our program,” Mullins wrote. “We are committed to protecting our program-There are countless patients and citizens that are depending on it to survive-We are fighting for them. We will continue to work in the ‘off-session’ to ensure we protect and serve our communities, and we will be ready for the 2023 session.”

The 2023 Alabama Regular Legislative Session will begin next March.

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