Only three months – 90(ish) days – until the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission is scheduled to begin accepting applications for licenses. It was a year ago when this all started. And like raising children, the days pass slowly while the months fly by.
Your perspective depends on where you sit. For many, it feels like Alabama’s medical cannabis program has been a work in progress for years. Others, joining the party by the day, are energized by its newness.
The Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, which issues rules for licensed practitioners and physicians, issued its final rules in March 2022. These rules relate to the physician recommendation of medical cannabis. Specifically, they lay out the eligibility requirements for a licensed physician to obtain a permit that allows the physician to then recommend patients for medical cannabis use. Once a physician has an Alabama Medical Cannabis Certification Permit from the board, the physician must complete a number of steps with his or her patient before recommending that patient for medical cannabis use.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, tasked with issuing rules for cultivation activities, issued its proposed rule, “Medical Cannabis Cultivation,” on May 17, 2022. This proposed rule outlines the requirements for cultivators and integrated facilities licensed by the AMCC in creating their individual operations plan. In other words, the ADAI ensures licensees are cultivating cannabis consistent with the operations plan they will submit to the AMCC as part of the licensing process. The deadline for comment is July 12, 2022.
At the most recent meeting, staff indicated that the Medical Cannabis Commission hoped to have rules prepared for approval by the commission at the meeting scheduled for June 9 and available to the public in draft form a week or two later. In the meantime, the commission has held workshops where staff and commission members publicly discuss the potential rules.
Beginning September 1, 2022, a person may apply to the commission for a license for an integrated facility or for a license as a cultivator processor, secure transporter, state testing laboratory or dispensary (Ala. Code § 20-2A-53(a)). Sources in the commission have told us that the commission anticipates issuing licenses in February 2023. Once licenses are issued, medical marijuana growers can begin growing. But, because it takes three to four months for a crop to be ready for processing, medical marijuana dispensaries won’t have a product to sell until Summer or Fall 2023.
All of this is confounded by the fact that the commission has not yet released the form applications, meaning that would-be applicants do not currently have either the applications or the draft rules and regulations. While not ideal, not all hope is lost and there is still much that can be accomplished.
As we have previously written, based on the statute and what we anticipate to be in the regulations, applicants have a lot to do before September 1, 2022. Given the extremely competitive field of candidates combined with the limited number of licenses available, it’s best to get ahead of the curve. For the better part of a year it has felt like a lot of hurry up and wait for applicants. Now it’s just time to hurry up.