Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | It’s time to fully legalize marijuana in Alabama

CW File

At this point, the arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana have been accepted by the vast majority of Americans. A 2023 poll found that 70% of Americans are in favor of legalization, including a slight majority of self-identified conservatives.

Still, the Biden administration has yet to federally decriminalize marijuana as a scheduled drug, despite issuing pardons for possession-related crimes. As a result, marijuana businesses in states where it’s been legalized are still struggling with federal regulations.

In Alabama, marijuana is currently legal as a medical prescription for a list of 15 specific medical conditions. However, this policy — enacted in 2021 — has yet to bear fruit, as the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which is in charge of licensing cannabis businesses, has repeatedly blundered its responsibilities.

Now plaintiffs have filed litigation against the AMCC, attempting to remove it from much of the licensure process in order to finally get medical marijuana circulating in the state. The plaintiffs argue that the AMCC is uninterested in actually carrying out their responsibilities and that they are simply filibustering medical marijuana in Alabama.

It is hard to think otherwise, as the commission has spent over three years and $12 million in taxpayer funds without seeing a single prescription filled.

Not only is the AMCC’s inaction a frustrating example of bureaucratic foot-dragging, but it is also causing indirect harm to Alabamians.

Medical marijuana is genuinely a helpful prescription that can alleviate the suffering associated with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, cancer and clinical depression. Holding this treatment hostage is depriving patients of care that could seriously improve their well-being.

Additionally, the blockage of regulated medical marijuana may be causing Alabamians to turn to less safe alternatives, namely delta-8 and other hemp derivatives that are legal nationwide under the 2018 federal Farm Bill. Although these derivatives are not inherently dangerous, they do not require a doctor’s prescription, and the government’s current capacity for regulating delta-8 and other products is limited.

In some cases, this has led consumers of these over-the-counter products to experience adverse side effects. Instances of hallucinations, psychotic delusions, anxiety and paranoia — although uncommon — have been linked to the use of these alternatives.

Experts have also suggested that consumers may even be unwittingly ingesting toxic substances like pesticides, heavy metals or residual solvents. This has led to calls for increased regulation of the industry to better guarantee safety, but until those regulations are put in place, consumers may still be at risk.

Were more closely regulated, physician-prescribed medical marijuana actually an option, Alabamians who are currently turning to delta-8 and other alternatives to treat their medical conditions wouldn’t need to worry as much about negative reactions and potential dangers.

Of course, the same argument applies to recreational marijuana — a fact acknowledged by 24 states and Washington, D.C., which have already legalized it. The truth is, Alabamians will be most safe when they finally have access to safe, regulated THC products — products, by the way, that can generate immense revenue for the state that in turn can be invested into myriad social services.

Cannabis is not only less harmful than many other substances (including alcohol), it can also be genuinely beneficial when its sale and use are regulated. It is long past time to abandon the myths crafted by the Nixon administration during its “War on Drugs” — an inherently racist campaign designed specifically to target and punish minorities.

Throughout its history, Alabama’s state government has wrangled with countless social issues, with some revealing the path to progress while others remain political challenges. Let the legalization and regulation of marijuana be an example of the former. Reform the AMCC, reboot the licensure process and begin the push for recreational legalization.

Prudishness will not protect consumers. Clutch your pearls all you want, but the legalization of recreational marijuana is looking more and more like a political inevitability. Alabama might as well get in on the new status quo — let the people smoke their pot.

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