Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission Holds Third Meeting

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The Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission held its third meeting in Montgomery on October 3. The majority of the meeting centered around two presentations. The first presenter, Curt Harper, a toxicologist from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, discussed new technologies that allow law enforcement officers to accurately test for the presence of THC in drivers who have been pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. The presentation focused on current impairment tests, such as urine or blood samples, and how they may not accurately reflect the presence of drugs in a driver’s system at or near the time of a driving incident.  According to Harper, new technology, such as oral fluid tests, is evolving and being implemented by various law enforcement agencies throughout the state. These tests allow law enforcement officials to conduct a minimally invasive procedure to detect the presence of THC in an individual suspected of driving under the influence.  

The second presentation focused on qualifying conditions and was centered around a report conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016.  The presenter, Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, the Director of the UAB Epilepsy Center, discussed a variety of medical illnesses and complications ranging from chronic pain and cancer to HIV/AIDS. The evidence presented generally showed that cannabis is either an effective treatment for these medical complications, or that there is insufficient evidence to refute such conclusions.

Our Take

Medical cannabis supporters should take Harper and Szaflarski’s presentations as a positive sign that the commission is trending towards an effective legislative proposal allowing medical cannabis in the state of Alabama. Harper and Szaflarski, however, did introduce two interesting topics at the conclusion of their presentations. Harper, noting that the impairment detection technology may now be available, charged the committee with formulating and proposing an impairment threshold that presumes a driver is under the influence of THC, similar to the current 0.08 blood alcohol content level that presumes a driver is intoxicated from alcohol consumption.  The commission will either follow other medical cannabis states that have implemented impairment thresholds or adopt its own unique standard. Szaflarski noted his concern regarding the accurate labeling of medical cannabis products, stating that labeling provides the consistency and knowledge that both physicians and patients require.

At the next meeting, look for the commission to begin discussing the details of the proposed legislation. Sen. Tim Melson, who chairs the commission, concluded the presentations by introducing nine different legislative proposals the committee will address at the next meeting.

Next Steps

We plan to attend and report on the commission’s next meeting in Montgomery in November. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or would like any additional information in the meantime.