Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill Monday legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the state. The new law comes after decades of Republican opposition to the issue, which has gradually been fading.
The bill will allow people with one of 16 qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, a terminal illness, and depression, to purchase medical marijuana through the recommendation of a doctor. The bill also recognizes the importance of establishing a balance between the needs of employers to have a “strong functioning workforce with the needs of employees who will genuinely benefit from using cannabis for medical use in a manner that makes the employee a productive employee.” The approval in the conservative state comes as a number of state legislatures are changing cannabis laws, and Alabama is the 37th state to approve the use of medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Alabama’s State Legislature voted to legalize medical marijuana earlier this month. It was passed 68-34 in the chamber with bipartisan support after a vote on the measure had first been blocked by Republicans during a nearly nine-hour debate.
There were concerns that the governor would veto the bill or send it back to the Legislature with an amendment, but instead, she signed it and made Alabama the second state in the deep south to approve the creation of a medical marijuana program. In a statement, Ivey said that the new law was an important step and that:
“On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
Virginia became the first southern US state to legalize marijuana on April 7.