Women wishing to obtain medical cannabis in Alabama would be required to present evidence of a negative pregnancy before purchase under a bill recently introduced by a state lawmaker. The measure, Senate Bill 324, was introduced on March 17 by Republican Sen. Larry Stutts, who is also an obstetrician.
If passed, the bill would require “women of childbearing age” to present proof that they are not pregnant to medical cannabis dispensaries prior to purchasing medical cannabis. The statute would apply to women aged 25 to 50 and the test would have to be from the patient’s physician or ordered from a certified medical lab by a doctor licensed by the state of Alabama.
“The documentation must be dated within 48 hours of purchase before she may purchase any medical cannabis except in the capacity as a registered caregiver,” according to the text of the legislation.
A woman who becomes pregnant while a registered medical marijuana patient would be required to “report her pregnancy status to her registered certifying physician and shall be prohibited from obtaining medical cannabis throughout the pregnancy,” Additionally, Stutts’ bill “prohibits breastfeeding women from purchasing medical cannabis unless as a registered caregiver.”
Senate Bill 324 would amend Alabama’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by state lawmakers last year. The state is currently working on implementing the program, with regulators announcing on March 23 that patients would be able to apply for medical marijuana identification cards in spring 2023.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission is expected to begin accepting applications for dispensary licenses by September of this year. Stutts would like to see tighter rules put in place before sales of medical cannabis begin.
“We need some parameters, and I’m still not in favor of the marijuana bill,” he said in a recent radio interview. “But it is in place. I think it can be improved, and one of the ways it can be improved is to limit pregnant people using it, limit their availability to it.”
“There’s plenty of data for the harmful effects of marijuana during pregnancy. And I just simply felt like we need to have some guidelines in the bill,” Stutts added. “Yeah, the marijuana bill is law now but if we’re going to have that as the law, we need to set some parameters.”
Advocates Oppose Legislation
Policies that restrict access to marijuana by pregnant people have been opposed by pregnancy advocates and civil rights watchdogs. Emma Roth, an attorney with the group National Advocates For Pregnant Women (NAPW), said that the bill “would violate women’s right to privacy and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“It’s another attempt to police pregnancy in the name of the fetus when medical marijuana poses no greater harm than other common exposures during pregnancy,” Roth told Marijuana Moment. “And where would the state’s reach end? Would a negative pregnancy test be required to be around smokers, to drink coffee, or to work a factory job?”
Last year, NAPW issued a statement in support of an Arizona woman who was found guilty of child neglect for using legally obtained marijuana during pregnancy.
“Peer-reviewed scientific research does not support the conclusion that prenatal exposure to marijuana causes harm or creates risks of harm different or greater than exposure to many substances as well as medications prescribed to pregnant women,” the organization noted in its statement.
Advocates also opposed rules passed by Oklahoma lawmakers in 2018 that would have required women to prove that they were not pregnant before purchasing medical marijuana. After two groups sued to block the measure, legislators passed new regulations that dropped the negative pregnancy test requirement.
“Requiring women submit to a pregnancy test before their doctor may make a medical marijuana recommendation is discriminatory and a clear violation of the 14th Amendment,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma wrote in a statement opposing the rule.
Stutts’ bill also contains other amendments to Alabama’s medical marijuana statute, including a provision requiring dispensaries to be no closer than 1,000 feet to a school, daycare center or institution of higher education. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Children, Youth and Human Services for consideration.