Cannabis has been prohibited in the Heart of Dixie since 1931 and not much has changed since then. Even medicinal marijuana—which most states cautiously allow—is prohibited there.
Perhaps it’s not too surprising that things haven’t changed since 1931 since Alabama is the home state of current Attorney General, and staunch anti-marijuana advocate, Jeff Sessions. However, the growing popularity of CBD oil has managed to break through Alabama’s restrictive anti-drug barrier. Is recreational marijuana use close behind? Let’s find out.
Cannabis for Medical Use in Alabama
Despite cannabis and all its byproducts being illegal, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill called Carly’s Law in 2014. The bill is named for Carly Chandler, who was three years old at the time. She suffered from a severe neurological disorder that causes frequent seizures. Her parents wanted to use CBD, aka cannabidiol, oil to help reduce the frequency and intensity of her seizures
The bill allowed the University of Alabama to administer non-psychoactive CBD oil to children suffering from debilitating seizures. Two years later, a bill called Leni’s Law decriminalized CBD for people with special medical conditions.
The bill was named after Leni Young, a child from Alabama who suffered from intense seizures. Her parents took her to Oregon so that she could use CBD to help treat her condition. The newer bill expands on the previous one by allowing CBD oil with up to 3% THC and permitting it to be used by anyone with a debilitating medical condition, not just seizures.
How to Become CBD Eligible in Alabama
- Leni’s Law states that the patient must receive a diagnosis from their long-time doctor that they suffer from a condition for which conventional medicine does not provide much relief.
- These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Severe pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe muscle spasms
- Once the doctor has determined that a person qualifies for CBD, they can legally provide said patient a dose of CBD oil.
Cannabis for Recreational Use in Alabama
Alabama has one of the lowest cannabis usage rates in America, most likely because the penalties are so steep. Even a mere possession charge can result in jail time and a large fine. Even as the medicinal use of marijuana becomes more widespread, Alabama is still one of the states that refuses to allow its use. There is strong support among the public and some Alabama politicians to ease up on the harshness of the state’s marijuana penalties.
A bill to reduce the charge from a misdemeanor to a violation failed to pass in the Alabama legislature. The bill would have made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a maximum fine of $250 for a first and second offense. Third and subsequent offenses would face a maximum fine of $500. One of the reasons the bill was voted down is that opposing politicians do not want to appear to be soft on drugs. Those who support the bill want marijuana to be decriminalized so that the police can focus on harder drugs like opioids.
|Offense||Charge||Maximum Incarceration||Maximum Fine|
|Personal use: First time offenders||Possession in the Second Degree: Misdemeanor||1 year maximum||$6000|
|Personal use: Second time and subsequent offenders and those caught with intent to sell.||Possession in the First Degree: Felony||1 year + 1 day* to 10 years||$15,000|
*This is a mandatory minimum sentence, it cannot be suspended by the judge.
The Future of Cannabis in Alabama
Even Alabama couldn’t resist the CBD wave despite being a deeply conservative state with some of the more restrictive marijuana laws in the nation. Allowing the use of CBD for patients suffering from debilitating illnesses is a major step forward for Alabama.
However, marijuana for recreational use is still a no go and will likely remain that way for a while. Even medical marijuana is still prohibited, so recreational use is unlikely to happen any time soon. Still, nobody would have believed that CBD would one day become legal, so anything is possible. Even if it does take a while to happen.