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State selects 21 licensees to produce, distribute medical marijuana

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission selected 21 licensees Monday for the exclusive rights to grow and distribute medical marijuana in the state. 

With more than 90 applicants, the licenses were highly sought-after among companies looking to get in early on the medical marijuana industry as the state rolls out its pilot program allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis to eligible patients.

‘When we leave here today, there’s going to be some terribly disappointed people’

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission meets in the RSA Dexter Avenue Building in Montgomery.

The commission met early Monday morning at the RSA Dexter Avenue Building in Montgomery, the room filled with dozens of company representatives all hoping to be selected. Shortly after kicking off the meeting, the commission went into recess in order to commence the candidate review process, which was not open to the public.

Returning in the afternoon, Commission Executive Director John McMillan attempted to temper expectations of some of the business representatives in the room before the commission announced their decisions.

“When we leave here today, there’s going to be some terribly disappointed people. To the recipients, we look forward to working with you in a partnership manner.”

Licenses will be awarded in July after a period for possible challenges and licensing fees are paid. Annual licensing fees range from $30,000 to $50,000. McMillan previously told ADN he expects lawsuits to follow Monday’s decisions, based on what’s happened in other states.

The commission awarded licenses in six categories:

Cultivation Licenses

Processor Licenses

Dispensary Licenses

Secure Transporter Licenses

State Testing Laboratory License

Integrated Facility Licenses

After announcing the awarded licenses, the commission adjourned, with the company representatives in the room showing mixed reactions of excitement and disappointment.

Antoine Mordican of Native Black Cultivation, who applied but did not receive a cultivator license, told Alabama Daily News he was disappointed with the commission’s decision, but that he may request an investigative appeal, as is the right of all applicants.

“I felt like I should have been selected,” Mordican said. “I put my best foot forward, so of course anybody (would) feel like they should get what they worked hard for.”

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who co-sponsored the 2021 bill that established the commission and kicked medical marijuana use in the state, said after the meeting that it was “a great day in the state” to see the process finally unfold.

“This is huge for health reasons, we’re seeing all the benefits to other states,” Singleton said.

“The study shows that there’s a lot of benefits for pain, the different numbers of ailments, anxiety and things of that nature. Now we’ll be able to get that out to all citizens who qualify.”

Sen. Bobby SIngleton attends a meeting of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

Alabama Daily News asked Singleton if the rolling out of medical marijuana in the state could open the door in the future for decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana. Laughing, Singleton said “I didn’t say it, but yea!”

“If you look at what other states have done, other states have come back within 18 months after passing medical and going recreational,” he said. 

“And we’ll see tax dollars, so it’d be interesting to see what my colleagues see when dollars start rolling in, when we start getting testimonies from people saying that it helps.”

Another state legislator who had pushed for medical marijuana in the state for years is former State Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who attended the meeting Monday in hopes of seeing the result of his years’ worth of effort come to fruition.

“As the evidence started coming in, it became overwhelming that there are many people who without doubt are suffering and can be helped by this,” Ball said. “I shudder to think of the people who have gotten hooked on opioids, prescribed for pain, when if they had been prescribed cannabis, they would have lived.”

McMillan last week said that by late this year or early next year, marijuana products should be available for those who qualify for them under the law. Allowable medical conditions include cancer, a terminal illness, depression, epilepsy, panic disorder and chronic pain. Allowable forms of marijuana include pills, skin patches and creams but not smoking, vaping or edible products.

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