HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The City of Huntsville could soon join several other North Alabama cities in authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in city limits.
At Thursday’s Huntsville City Council meeting, Henry Thornton, the city’s external relations officer gave a presentation regarding medical cannabis to the council.
“We have a well-developed plan that we are going to push forward that we hope gets the votes,” Thornton told News 19.
The ordinance introduced at Thursday’s meeting will be voted on October 27. It would authorize dispensaries to operate within Huntsville city limits.
Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling said the council is being careful as it moves forward.
“We’re going to be looking for safeguards to make sure it cannot be abused and I think the bottom line is will this help reduce suffering for patients out there,” Kling said.
For a person to purchase medical cannabis, they will need to have a qualifying condition.
Kling said he thinks medical cannabis can be good for people with those conditions.
“This could be a good thing, and yes it could be perhaps, a positive alternative to opioids that have been prescribed,” Kling said.
Thornton agreed, saying, “The key audience for us is wanting to serve those individuals and make sure that they have access to these products that can provide a benefit to a lot of people with serious maladies.”
Now if the City of Huntsville passes the ordinance after the October 27th vote, it will join six other cities and counties in North Alabama that have already passed ordinances.
- Owen’s Crossroads
- Cullman County
- City of Cullman
- City of Good Hope
- City of Russellville
- Town of Killeen
However, just because these cities/counties have approved it, that doesn’t mean dispensaries will start popping up. The next step in the process comes through the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
If a business owner is interested in opening one, they must go through a lengthy and costly application process. People have until October 17 to request an application for a business license. Applications go out on October 24 and are due by December 30.
The fee for an application is $2,500, and if a license is granted the annual fees are estimated to be between $30,000 and $50,000.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) anticipates it will start issuing business licenses in July of 2023. There is certainly an interest in those licenses in North Alabama.
According to the AMCC, several counties have more than 5 requests for applications.
Here are the most recent number of requests by county:
- Madison: 36
- Morgan: 5
- Dekalb: 4
- Jackson: 3
- Marshall: 5
- Limestone: 7
- Colbert: 2
- Lauderdale: 5
- Lawrence: 1
- Franklin: 0
The AMCC said Madison County has the second-highest number of requests for applications with 36. Jefferson County has 78 and Montgomery County has 33.
The City of Huntsville wants to remind people that even if any licenses are granted for Madison County or Huntsville, it is still a long road ahead.
“I don’t want any viewers to be under the impression that we’ll pass this and there will be a dispensary pop-up before Christmas,” Thornton said. “That’s not going to happen, this is a very slow, gradual process.”
Councilman Kling reminded people that this will not pave the way for recreational marijuana.
“It’s important for the people to understand that this is not legalizing marijuana per se, this is for medical purposes with very strict guidelines,” Kling said.
Thornton agreed, speaking for the Mayor’s Office.
“The state law specifically notes that there is no momentum towards any kind of recreational marijuana, and I can absolutely speak for the leaders of the administration here in Huntsville, for Mayor Battle, on down that there is no interest in recreational marijuana,” Thornton said.