Marijuana has had a difficult time getting a sweet home in Alabama since its prohibition in the 1930’s. The needle moved only ever so slightly in 2014 with the passage of Carly’s Law but even then only CBD was made legal under Alabama marijuana laws but not medical cannabis.
However, it seems that Alabama has no choice but to face the music when it comes to marijuana legalization, due to mounting external pressures. Better late than never, the Yellowhammer State approved this year a medical marijuana bill thanks to Sen. Tim Melson. The Republican senator, who is also an anesthesiologist and medical researcher, already introduced the bill in 2019 and 2020 but the progress of last year’s effort got derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
SB 46 or the Compassion Act will allow patients to buy and use capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories and topical patches and the like. However, smoking or vaping marijuana and edibles like candies or baked good products are still prohibited.
Alabama marijuana laws still come down heavily on cannabis users, since even those who possess marijuana legally prescribed by a doctor in another state would be in violation of the Alabama criminal code. Moreover, the law is reportedly being enforced unfairly. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed found that black people in the state were four times more likely to be arrested for pot than their white counterparts. This kind of harsh, discriminatory enforcement was highlighted by a case involving the arrest of a decorated Arizona veteran in 2016. The vet, Sean Worsley, was sentenced to 5 years in a notoriously violent prison for possessing medical marijuana while driving through Alabama, even though his card was valid at the time.
While waiting for Alabama marijuana laws to change for the better, what should weed users keep in mind if they want to use, carry, or grow in the state? Here is what you can expect if you get into marijuana trouble in Alabama.
This article was reviewed and updated in 2021.
Overview of Alabama Marijuana Laws
At present, the only legal cannabis product in Alabama is CBD. The possession, sale, and cultivation of any kind of marijuana is prohibited. Here are the corresponding punishments for each violation:
- Second-degree possession of marijuana for personal use is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of 1 year and a maximum fine of $6000. Subsequent offenses are considered a Class D felony punishable by up to 5 years with a minimum mandatory sentence of 1 year and 1 day and a maximum fine of $7500.
- First-degree possession is a Class C felony punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 10 years with a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year and 1 day and a fine of up to $15,000.
It should be clarified that first-time “personal use” offenders can be charged with “Possession in the Second Degree” which is punishable as a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, second and subsequent offenses and non-“personal use” or those with intent to sell are considered Class C felonies.
- Selling marijuana is a Class B felony punishable by a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 20 prison sentence with a fine of up to $30,000.
- Selling to a minor is a Class A felony punishable by a prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $60,000.
- Cultivation can either be treated as possession or with intent to distribute. However, if cultivation involves guns, booby traps, or hazardous chemicals, it is considered a Class A felony.
History of Marijuana in Alabama
Surprisingly enough, Alabama was one of the last states that put a ban on cannabis late in 1931. Weed remained illegal in the state for decades onward until around 2012 when a number of states had already legalized medical marijuana. In that year, a bill called “The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act” was introduced. The legislation would have allowed seriously ill patients access to marijuana. It even enumerated 24 debilitating medical conditions that could significantly handicap a person’s ability to engage in major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336).
However, the bill died in committee and a similar fate awaited its reintroduction in 2015 as SB326. Sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, SB326 was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous approval. However, it was blocked by Sen. Jabo Waggoner who called it a “bad legislation that Alabama didn’t need”. The bill, which was hailed by High Times as “the most impressive piece of legislation the South has seen in regards to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program”, ultimately failed to reach the Senate Floor. Singleton also introduced in 2019 a bill that sought to reduce marijuana penalties.
Marijuana reform did manage to move forward even just a little bit during this time when Gov. Robert Bentley signed Carly’s Law in April 2014. Even though the legislation only allowed children with seizures access to CBD, it was considered to be a rare victory in the conservative South for marijuana advocates. Two years after, HB61, which gave anyone with debilitating medical condition access to CBD as well as raising the THC content to 3%, was also passed.
This year, the Alabama Senate finally passed an 86-page bill that seeks to legalize medical marijuana in the state. However, it is unlike most medical marijuana legislation in other states, such that it won’t allow patients to consume cannabis in raw form (smoking, vaping, etc). In fact, the legislation explicitly lists the allowed forms, which are the following:
- Tablets, capsules, or tinctures.
- Gelatinous cubes, or lozenge in a similar shape. d shape.
- Transdermal patches
- Nebulizers or inhalers
This also means that home growing is out of the question. The right to cultivation will instead be given to entities licensed by Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Alabama
How do Alabama marijuana laws compare with those in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Alabama
No, marijuana for recreational use is illegal in Alabama.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Alabama.
No, medical marijuana is currently illegal in Alabama. Only CBD is currently allowed under Carly’s Law.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Alabama.
Earlier this year, a medical marijuana legalization bill was introduced by Republican senator Tim Melson. In addition to giving patients and caregivers legal access to marijuana, SB 46 seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the cultivation, production, testing, and sale of medical cannabis in the state.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Alabama.
Growing marijuana in Alabama is strictly illegal for residents of all ages.
Marijuana activists frequently like to point out that legalization is an inevitability that all US states will eventually have to face. Alabama’s marijuana laws are very much outdated compared to that of its neighboring states Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas where medical use is already allowed. However, SB 46 should be a good start and will make sure that patients with debilitating conditions and severe pain can get access to cannabis medication for the meantime.