On Monday, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission awarded the state’s first 21 licenses for medical cannabis operations. The City of Gadsden’s medical cannabis industrial recruitment campaign this past fall paid off with the awarding of multiple licenses for applicants seeking facilities in Gadsden, which are expected to begin operations in early 2024.
“We are happy to see a new healthcare industry created right here in Gadsden,” said Mayor Craig Ford. “We knew our regional location and growing medical economy gave us a competitive edge. These dispensaries will provide patients with new options for relief of some of the most troublesome conditions while creating new jobs and new sales tax revenue for Gadsden. Since this is the first year, the industry is only going to grow. Being the first to market is a key position for the future.”
Dispensaries, which will operate much like traditional pharmacies, can only be located in cities that have approved a resolution or ordinance to allow them, and Gadsden was among the first of Alabama's 55 cities to do so.
Ford took office Nov. 7, 2022, and immediately established a medical cannabis recruitment task force to assist license applicants who were interested in Gadsden while facing a tight deadline of Dec. 31, 2022. The task team coordinated contacts and outreach to medical cannabis applicants and created an organized recruiting system.
Those efforts paid off when two of those applicants were awarded licenses this week: one for an integrated license and one for a dispensary license. Integrated licensees can have up to five dispensaries in separate counties and are also authorized to cultivate, process, and transport medical cannabis in Alabama. Dispensary licensees are allowed to open up to three dispensaries in separate counties.
The state law authorizing medical cannabis allows products to be prescribed in limited forms including pills, capsules, tinctures, gelatinous cubes, and suppositories. Physicians must receive specialized medical cannabis training and become certified to recommend the authorized products for certain limited conditions such as autism, cancer, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, PTSD, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s, and terminal illness.
The law, which was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, also created restrictions on the location of medical cannabis businesses to ensure they are not too close to sensitive facilities like schools or daycares. Medical cannabis businesses must comply with the city’s zoning regulations to ensure they are appropriately zoned for the specified type of business activity.