In a stunning display of potential privacy conflicts, Senator Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) revealed a measure that would require women from ages 25 to 50 to furnish proof of a negative pregnancy test to a dispensary in order to be eligible to receive medical cannabis in Alabama. This test must be from either a doctor or a medical lab, and would have to be taken 48 hours before purchase. Yes, you read that correctly.
Senate Bill 324 is a piece of work generating a great amount of backlash within multiple communities. The Senate committee passed the bill in a 7-2 vote last week and has since been met with plenty of criticism.
Organizations across the country responded accordingly. One example is the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), calling the bill “blatantly unconstitutional and unprecedented.”
Others had similar reactions to the bill. “We are very concerned that this is an invasion of the privacy of Alabama women and their right to equal protection under the law,” NAPW attorney Emma Roth told AL.com.
Beyond the negative pregnancy test, women of the “childbearing age” would have to also report to their physicians if they become pregnant. Furthermore, new moms who are in the stages of breastfeeding would also be banned from purchasing medical cannabis.
How these bans are enforced—with inevitable consequences—is not discussed in the bill.
Medical cannabis is a new topic in the state of Alabama—with Governor Kay Ivey just signing the legislation in May 2021. There was a lot of pushback from lawmakers and, since the signing, a number of exceptions have been made.
For example, only oral cannabis products (i.e. tinctures, capsules, etc.) are allowed. Smoking and vaping products along with edibles are currently banned under state law and still not available for purchase.
However, this new legislation that would require women to provide pregnancy tests may be taking the regulations concerning Alabama’s medical industry too far. And there’s plenty of concerned folks out there looking to ensure this bill doesn’t pass.
Alabama Regulations Will Likely Drive People Away from Medical Cannabis
The reasoning behind this bill is pretty straightforward: The CDC says that consuming cannabis while pregnant has been shown to cause a number of health problems in newborns, including lower birth weights and unusual neurological developments. It’s a highly contested issue, and many women choose to abstain during pregnancy.
Even when it comes to cannabidiol (CBD), the medical community cannot determine whether or not these products produce negative effects in pregnant or breastfeeding women—there’s just not enough research.
So, why should Alabamans have to prove to their state government that they’re being responsible mothers and only using cannabis if they feel safe about it?
Many people agree that the invasiveness of the bill’s measure is obvious. Yet, it also produces an unnecessary inconvenience for women who need medical cannabis. Imagine this: each time they purchase cannabis, they’d also have to buy (and set aside the time to take) a pregnancy test. In many regards, this is an added burden for women.
To take things further, Alabama has set other ridiculous limitations on its medical industry. For example, throughout the entire state, only four dispensary licenses will be allowed.
While there are already restrictions on where those dispensaries are allowed, Stutts’ bill plans to add further restrictions. Written in the document is a ban on dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a college or home-based child care.
All these rules will only have one outcome—a public that’s discouraged from purchasing legal cannabis for medical purposes. In turn, it would not be surprising to see the black market outdo the legal industry.