Three more Southern states could soon create medical cannabis programs.
State legislators in Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina have filed or pre-filed bills establishing such programs.
These states would join Mississippi, the latest state to adopt a medical cannabis program, making it the 35th state to legalize medical cannabis. Mississippi used a ballot measure to get medical cannabis on the ballot in November. The measure, Initiative 65, passed overwhelmingly.
Here’s the state of play in the other states that are considering similar moves.
In Alabama, state Sen. Tim Melson plans to file a medical cannabis bill similar to the one he filed in 2020. The new version of that bill will include amendments the Senate made last year.
The legislature ended early due to coronavirus, cutting short the house’s chance to consider the bill.
This will be the third year Melson has presented a medical cannabis bill in the state legislature.
Melson said the previous legislation followed a months-long study by a commission composed of doctors, legislators and lawyers.
The amendments approved last year include capping the THC amount on cannabis products used by minors to 3 percent and an amendment that adds premenstrual syndrome and menopause to the list of treatable conditions.
The bill would create a seed-to-sale tracking system. Doctors would have to meet certain qualifications before prescribing cannabis. Smokable and vaping medical cannabis products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. It would not allow any food products containing cannabis, like cookies or candies.
Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. Patients who don’t suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration, according to the bill.
The Alabama legislative session starts Feb. 2.
Beaufort’s state Rep. Bill Herbkersman and state Sen. Tom Davis, both Republicans, have prefilled both House and Senate version of the bipartisan South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.
In 2018 and in 2020, versions of the bill failed.
The bill sets the guidelines for a medical cannabis program, and outlininges restrictions on how much a medical cannabis a patient may possesssion at one time and the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) allowed in each type of medical cannabis product distributed to state patients.
Patients with the following conditions are eligible to use medical cannabis under the bill: cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other neurological disease, glaucoma, PTSD, Crohn’s Disease, sickle cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, wasting syndrome, autism, severe nausea, chronic muscle spasms and chronic pain.
The bill also creates a 6 percent tax on all medical cannabis products. Ninety percent of the revenue from the tax will go to the general fund, 3 percent to research on how to detect drivers impaired by cannabis, 2 percent to South Carolina Department of Education to create drug safety education and 5 percent to cannabis research.
The South Carolina legislative session starts Jan. 12.
Kentucky legislators Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, Rep. William Lawrence, R-Maysville, and Rep. Derek Lewis, R-London, has jointly filed a bipartisan medical marijuana bill.
The bill creates a Division of Medical Cannabis and creates a director and a board, which will set regulations regarding daily, 10-day and 30-day supply limits and create limits on how much THC is allowed in each type of medical cannabis product. This board would also decide which medical conditions qualify a patient to use medical cannabis.
The bill also protects out-of-state medical cannabis patients and caregivers from arrest if they are found in possession of cannabis while in Kentucky. Qualified patients are forbidden from using cannabis while operating a car, boat or airplane. The bill also allows employers to maintain their drug testing and workplace drug policies.
Doctors already licensed to prescribe controlled substances who want to prescribe medical cannabis must apply to the state licensing board.
If you are a valid medical cannabis cardholder in another state, you can apply for a temporary medical card in Kentucky.
The Kentucky legislative session started Jan. 5.