Cannabis in Alabama has been illegal for recreational use since 1931. First-time possession of personal amounts is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $6000, and a mandatory six months driver's license suspension. Repeated offenses or possession with intent to sell is a felony.
Legislation to allow for limited medical use was enacted in 2014 (Carly's Law) and 2016 (Leni's Law). The pair of bills provided an affirmative defense for the use of CBD oil to treat seizures under certain conditions.
Cannabis was banned in Alabama in 1931.
Carly's Law for CBD trials (2014)
In April 2014, Governor Robert Bentley signed Carly's Law, which permits the University of Alabama at Birmingham to provide non-psychoactive CBD oil to children with debilitating seizures as a clinical study. The legislation provided an affirmative defense for individuals or their caregivers to possess CBD oil of up to 3% THC.
Leni's Law to expand CBD allowance (2016)
Leni's Law was signed into law by Governor Bentley on May 4, 2016. It expanded the affirmative defense allowed under Carly's Law to include any individual who has seizures and who has a doctor's recommendation to use CBD. As with Carly's Law, the THC content was not allowed to exceed 3%.
Failed attempts to legalize medical marijuana
In 2012, Representative Koven Brown, a Republican representing the state's 40th House District, introduced model legislation as "The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act," which would "authorize the medical use of marijuana only for certain qualifying patients who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a serious medical condition." In part, it enumerated 24 serious medical conditions, or any other "chronic or persistent medical symptom" that "substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336)" which "if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient's safety or physical or mental health." The bill died in committee. Three years later, it was reintroduced with minor changes in the State Senate as SB326 and sponsored by State Senator Bobby Singleton.
In 2015 state Senator Bobby Singleton proposed the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act, which would have allowed patients with 25 severe conditions to access medical cannabis. The bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous approval, but failed to reach the Senate floor. Senator Jabo Waggoner, head of the Senate Rules Committee, blocked the bills further progress, stating: "It is bad legislation... We don't need that in Alabama." High Times described the proposed bill as "the most impressive piece of legislation the South has seen in regards to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program".
Attempts to reduce penalties for non-medical use
In 2019, a bill by Bobby Singleton to reduce cannabis penalties advanced in the state senate. It would have eliminated the felony charge for a second personal use possession offense, saying instead that a person commits first-degree possession when they have two ounces or more, and that first-degree possession is not a felony until the third conviction. Also, second-degree possession would have been reduced from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Also in 2019, a bill by Patricia Todd to reduce the penalty for possession was voted down in the House Judiciary Committee. Her bill would have made possession of an ounce or less punishable only as a violation. A nearly identical bill by Dick Brewbaker advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6-4 vote and moved to the Senate floor.
Gonzalez v. Raich amicus
Despite not allowing medical cannabis, on October 13, 2004, Alabama along with Mississippi and Louisiana filed an amicus brief protesting Gonzalez v. Raich, with Alabama stating: "The point is that, as a sovereign member of the federal union, California is entitled to make for itself the tough policy choices that affect its citizens."
Under Alabama Code, first-time "personal use" offenders can be charged with Possession in the Second Degree, § 13A-12-214. That offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty authorized is a 1-year jail term (although it can be suspended with probation ordered) and a $6,000 fine.
Possession in the First Degree, § 13A-12-213, is charged for non-"personal use" (i.e. intent to sell) and second and subsequent "personal use" offenses. This charge is a Class C felony punishable with imprisonment of 1-to-10 years (there is a mandatory minimum of 1-year-and-1-day to serve which cannot be suspended by the judge) and $15,000 fine.
Sale of any amount is a Class B felony punishable with a 2- to 20-year sentence (with the 2 years being a mandatory minimum) and maximum $30,000 fine. Sale to a minor is punishable by a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $60,000.
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- "'Devil is in the details,' says advocate for Alabama medical marijuana legalization". AL.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
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