It’s been said that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. In an important step for the establishment of a viable medical cannabis program in Alabama, last week the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries approved its final rule for cultivating medical cannabis.

On May 17, 2022, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries issued its proposed rule, “Medical Cannabis Cultivation,” outlining the requirements for cultivators and integrated facilities licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission in creating their individual operations plan. At the conclusion of the public comment period for the proposed rule on July 12, 2022, the department held a hearing open to the public. At the conclusion of the hearing, the department voted to approve the proposed rule with four changes. Two of the changes are not substantive – merely stylistic – and do not merit any detailed discussion. However, there were two notable changes.

First, the department voted to revise the rules relating video monitoring inside cultivation facilities. The proposed rule stated “[m]onitoring cameras must be of such numbers, scope and clarity as to allow for facial recognition features of all persons…” The department changed this language in the final approved rule to “[m]onitoring cameras must be of such numbers, scope and clarity as to determine facial features of all persons…” There was concern over the “facial recognition” language because individuals will be wearing hairnets, masks and other personal protective equipment to keep bacteria out of the crop.  The purpose of this section at the outset was to recognize individuals in and around the cultivation areas, and the department decided the updated language better achieves this purpose. In our view, this revision was a wise decision by the department.

The biggest change to the proposed rule was the deletion of the “Location” part of Section 80-14-1-.08. This was originally included because the department was worried about cross-pollination between hemp plants and marijuana plants. The section as proposed did not allow for cultivators or integrated facilities to be located within one mile of each other or any hemp grower. The department indicated at the hearing that after much discussion and consideration, it decided to scrap the provision altogether.  Another very good decision, in our view.

That’s the report from the July 13, 2022, public hearing of the Department of Agriculture and Industries. Medical marijuana still has a way to go in Alabama, and its cultivation is still subject to further rule-making procedure. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has issued its rules that speak to a far broader regime – those rules are still out for comment.