By: Phil Williams
Here’s one for you: Big Government, Marijuana and Dr. Frankenstein all walk into a bar…sounds like a cheap joke, I know. The problem is the joke is on us because that’s basically what we got in Alabama when our Republican leadership formed the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
Let me step back and remind us all that we have a Republican super-majority in Montgomery. The GOP controls all three branches of Alabama government and has carte blanche to do, or not do, what it wants.
Take a look at some of the key provisions currently on the Alabama Republican Party Platform. Among other things, the GOP stands for, “limited government and that the growth of government should be curtailed.” It also says they “support lower and fair tax models” and “that business growth should be encouraged through elimination of all unnecessary regulations.” The ALGOP platform expresses support for constitutional liberties to include “equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity.”
I’ve been a member of the State Republican Party for many years. I ran as a party member. I helped establish the GOP as a super majority in the state legislature. I fully support that platform and the efforts of the party to promote it. Yet I watch as members of the legislature enact laws purporting to be for the greater good that fly in the face of that platform despite the fact that they have an “R” by their name. That’s exactly what’s happened with the establishment of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
The more libertarian among us say that stodgy, old dyed-in-the-wool conservatives just want to get in the way of someone following their own desires. Its harmless they say. It’s all natural they say. Just simple and non-threatening. It’s like aspirin! Live and let live, get out of the way, you naysayers! Ganja gonna help ya!
If all of that is true and medical cannabis is such a non-issue, then why is it that the Republican super-majority had to violate every principle of their party platform to make it available?
Ask yourself with all candor, if medical marijuana is harmless, then why did the GOP establish a new fully separate and autonomous wing of government called the Cannabis Commission? A commission that has no limitations on the size of its staffing. A commission that will have its own enforcement officers that will be clothed with arrest and investigative authority.
Did you know that the Cannabis Commission enforcement officers will have the power of search and seizure without a warrant?
Did you know that the Cannabis Commission law allows for the collection of taxes at 9% on the dollar for each medical cannabis “prescription”? It gets worse when you realize that under Title 40 of the Alabama Code, this state does not tax other prescriptions at all. But the efficacy of medical marijuana is so great that we will tax it at ten times the usual rate!
But people need it right away, so let’s get the pharmacies stocked and ready to dispense! We can’t do that because marijuana is not FDA approved and pharmacists cannot dispense it. It will have to be sold at a separate specially licensed dispensary by a non-medically trained clerk hired off the street.
But at least there will be dispensaries nearby for everyone who needs to get their prescriptions filled! No, the law only allows Alabama’s 67 counties and 5 million residents to have just 37 licensed locations.
But if someone needs it, then just go where it is, get it, and bring it to them. Maybe not. The law says that in order to be able to administer it you must be approved by the Cannabis Commission as a registered caregiver, otherwise someone will have to come to your house to give your child their “medicine.”
So let’s get this straight: despite the absolute assurance that medical marijuana is a much needed thing for the citizens of the great state of Alabama, the Republican supermajority has decided to make government bigger, limit the growth of a private-sector business, tax it heavily, violate basic rights in enforcing it, invade the privacy of your home to administer it, and do so in a way that is in violation of Federal law and could get a pharmacist fired.
Added to all of this morass is the knowledge that the Cannabis Commission has been mired in lawsuits. Multiple suits have been filed claiming that there has been partisanship and a lack of transparency in the licensing process. A new lawsuit in recent week just resulted in the commission’s chairman resigning from his position for allegedly double dipping on state compensation.
What’s the real reason for doing all of this? Recent studies show that the industry is peaking now with $13.8 billion in sales in 2022 alone. States like Alabama have a chance to push that market share up by a projected 21% growth by 2030. This is a cash cow but they don’t want it grown in your backyard. There is no money in that.
Let’s pretend for a minute that marijuana is FDA approved for use on medicinal grounds. It’s not, but we can pretend. There are studies that indicate that marijuana is helpful to ease pain, calm seizure disorders, and add calm to an anxious mind.
There are also competing studies that question its effects and the societal impacts it brings. Recent studies indicate that legalization and decriminalization of marijuana has resulted in a three-fold increase in marijuana poisoning. Focusing on children alone reveals poisoning episodes increasing at four-and-a-half times year over year. It is also still off limits to our military, and law enforcement are going to need to see your papers.
The Alabama Cannabis Commission is exactly what you get when Big Government, Pot and Dr. Frankenstein walk into a bar together.
By: Phil Williams