Currently, the personal use of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Alabama with possible penalties of a year in jail and a $6,000 fine. The sale, cultivation, and trafficking in marijuana is a felony. But this may change in the coming months, as the state is considering legalizing the medical use of marijuana.

But should they? According to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) driving under the influence of marijuana is a growing problem. In 2018, about 12 million Americans from age 16 and up admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana, and 2.3 million Americans reported driving while under the influence of illegal drugs which weren’t marijuana.

Additional findings from the CDC study showed that:

  • The 21-25 age group were (reportedly) most likely to drive under the influence of marijuana; people aged 16-20 were the second most likely.
  • More males reported driving under the influence of marijuana than females.

If Alabama does pass a medical marijuana law, as many other states have done, the driver who is pulled over could still be charged with driving under the influence of drugs. The legality of the drug is not a defense to the DUI charge in the same way that drinking alcohol, if you’re not a minor, is also legal – but not a defense. Drivers who drive under the influence are generally liable for the injuries and deaths they cause.

The current status of medical marijuana legislation in Alabama

The state legislature created a panel called the Medical Cannabis Study Commission which is now recommending Alabama legalize medical marijuana. Twelve of the 18 members voted in favor of legalization. The panel found that “although some medical study results are inconclusive and some results are mixed, there is strong scientific evidence that both hemp and marijuana contain compounds that provide significant relief for symptoms of certain specified medical conditions.”

A draft bill, which the panel approved recommends that Alabama create an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission which will be responsible for “licensing businesses and tracking the medical cannabis system from ‘seed-to-sale.’”

The panel also recommends that further research be conducted into the therapeutic uses for both hemp and marijuana – along with addressing concerns about affordability and diversity of ownership of the various medical cannabis enterprises.

Prior efforts to advance medical marijuana legislation and to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana have failed, often without advancing to a full vote on the House floor. The draft bill would still need the approval of the full state legislature and the Governor of Alabama.

Medical uses for marijuana

The draft bill recommends that medical cannabis be considered for people with:

  • Terminal illnesses
  • PTSD
  • HIV-AIDS
  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Epilepsy

Compared to the other states which have proposed medical marijuana laws, the draft bill is still fairly restrictive. The bill “would not allow smokable forms of marijuana and would let employers fire or refuse to hire workers over their legal medical marijuana use.” If Alabama approves the medical marijuana bill when the legislature meets in February 2020, it would become the 34th state to pass such legislation.

At Martin & Helms, P.C., our experienced Huntsville personal injury laws keep current with the relevant laws as they change. We work to hold accountable drivers who operate their vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol – even when those substances can be used legally. To learn if you have a car accident claim or any type of personal injury case, please call us at 256-539-1990, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. Our offices are located in Huntsville and Decatur. We represent accident victims and the families of anyone wrongfully killed in Athens, Madison, and across North Alabama.