The cultivation of cannabis is restricted to medicinal use only in Baldwin County. On the other hand, the recreational use of Marijuana is strictly prohibited in the state of Alabama based on the Alabama Act 2021-450 or the Darren Wesley “Ato” Hall Compassion Act of May 2021. This act paved the way for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) to lead in the regulation of cannabis licensing and business in the state. Whereas, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is responsible for overseeing that all licensed cultivators follow the guidelines and regulations specified in the Act. Cultivation is not allowed outdoors or directly in the ground. Instead, they are expected to be grown in their own pots to avoid cross-contamination. With respect to this, the home cultivation of cannabis is strictly prohibited.
Medical Cannabis Business Licenses only accepted applicants from September 1 to December 30, 2022. The integrated facility license can only be awarded to 5 applicants, whereas the cultivator license will only be awarded to 12 making it highly competitive to acquire. To this date, AMCC has not given any license despite receiving 12 applicants for cultivator and 38 for integrated facility applicants. Alabama’s medical cannabis market is expected to launch following the scheduled issuing of licenses on July 10, 2023.
A cultivator license is permitted for the cultivation of cannabis, the sale or transfer of cannabis to a processor, and the sale or transfer of medical cannabis to a dispensary should the cultivator choose to contract with a processor. An annual license fee of $40,000 is required for continuous operation.
An integrated facility license is commissioned for the cultivation of cannabis, the processing of cannabis to medical cannabis including proper packaging and labeling of cannabis contents, the dispensary and sale of medical cannabis to registered qualified patients or caregivers, the transport of cannabis and medical cannabis between its facilities, and the sale or transfer of medical cannabis to a dispensary. Once an integrated license is granted, the integrated facility should then avoid transporting cannabis or medical cannabis on behalf of a secure transporter to or from another licensee facility or to a patient or caregiver, cultivate or process cannabis on behalf of another integrated facility, and sell or dispense medical cannabis on behalf of another integrated facility or dispensary. An annual license fee of $50,000 is necessary for uninterrupted operations. To ensure medicinal cannabis are at its highest quality, each integrated facility shall undergo product analysis every four months by an independent laboratory.
Only the manufacturing of medicinal cannabis is legal in Baldwin County by virtue of the Darren Wesley “Ato” Hall Compassion Act of May 2021. AMCC will only issue four processor licenses to eligible applicants. There were 94 applicants received, and only 12 applied for the processor license. AMCC has yet to award this license.
The holder of a processor license is permitted to purchase or transfer cannabis from a cultivator by means of a secure transporter, to process cannabis into medical cannabis with proper packaging and labeling of cannabis products, and to sell or transfer medical cannabis to a dispensary. On the other hand, the processor cannot cultivate, transport, or dispense cannabis or medical cannabis, or perform State Testing Laboratory or an integrated facility.
It is vital that all medical cannabis products should meet the expected levels of purity, free of toxins, contaminants, and additives except for pharmaceutical excipients. Also to keep in mind, medical cannabis must not be in any way attractive to children and shall follow the universal flavor, peach, stipulated by the AMCC.
Packaging must be child-resistant, tamper-evident, and have proper identification. The design should not look appealing to children and written claims of therapeutic or health benefits are strongly prohibited.
The product labels should strictly follow the above-mentioned design packaging guidelines as well and must be attached securely to the package, with clear and legible text. It should contain the lot and batch numbers with the name and license identification number of the cultivator and processor. It is also required to have the proper identification of the cannabinoid content and potency while clearly displaying the amount of product count inside. It should showcase the color-printed universal state symbol agreed to by the AMCC in 0.5 inches by 0.5 inches size and visibly show the words “Keep out of reach of children.”, a QR code should also be provided for convenient tracking and identification of the product, and must contain a disclaimer statement in the package insert.
The processor facilities should have alarm systems and audio or video surveillance operating 24 hours a day as a plan for security. To enhance this even further, the facility’s perimeter should be adequately protected by fences or barriers with proper lighting. Processors must maintain at least (1) security personnel during operating hours. It’s also the responsibility of the license holder to ensure all employees are wearing clear identification badges at all times, whereas visitors should have a visitor’s pass, recording their time, date, and purpose of visit.
There is a non-refundable application fee of $2,500 to be submitted electronically via credit card or Automated Clearing House (ACH) and an annual license fee of $40,000, which should be paid within 14 days after being awarded the license to operate as a processor.
Cannabis retail is legal but limited to medicinal cannabis in Baldwin County as mandated by the Darren Wesley “Ato” Hall Compassion Act of May 2021. AMCC will only be granting four dispensary licenses to awarded applicants and the licensee is permitted to operate up to three dispensing sites in the state. Each of these dispensing sites, under the same licensee, should be situated in different counties. However, setting up a dispensary site in the same county as an existing dispensary operating under a different licensee should not pose any issues with the AMCC. Moreover, the dispensary licensee can petition the AMCC to allow them to put up additional dispensary sites across the State of Alabama where a high number of registered patients and caregivers are reported to be in need of medicinal cannabis.
Among the 94 recorded applicants for the licenses, only 8 applied for the dispensary license in Baldwin County and are yet to be approved by the AMCC scheduled mid-year of 2023. The medicinal cannabis dispensary license will cost $40,000 on a yearly basis with a non-refundable application fee of $2,500. A background check is essential for all employees and board members, involved in the dispensary, every three years following the start date of each individual.
Here are the authorized acts of a licensed dispensary site:
The purchase and transfer of medicinal cannabis from a processor
The purchase or transfer of medical cannabis from the cultivator
The purchase and transfer of medical cannabis from an integrated facility
The dispensing and sale of medical cannabis to registered qualified patients and caregivers
Using only secure transporter to transfer medicinal cannabis including between owned dispensary site
Contrary to the permissible acts, listed below are the restricted acts of a dispensary licensee:
Sell cannabis in its pre-medicinal form
Purchase cannabis from a cultivator in its pre-medicinal form
Sell medicinal cannabis to an individual who is not a resident of Alabama
Act as an integrated facility
Deliver medicinal cannabis
Own another license from the other types of licenses or own a stock in an operating licensed facilities granted by the AMCC
Sell items such as equipments and supplies
AMCC requires that the dispensary structure or facility must be a stand-alone building. It also requires a parking lot alongside the building for the convenience, safety, and privacy of the caregivers and patients who will be buying medical cannabis from the dispensary. It is of utmost importance that the dispensing site is at least 1,000 feet away from any school, daycare, or childcare facility. On the other hand, dispensary sites are prohibited from operating in counties that have not authorized the resolution of the AMCC in their district.
The dispensary facilities are expected to follow the same rules and safety measures of the manufacturing facilities with regard to their employee and visitor identification cards, security personnel, surveillance, and alarm systems. As dispensary facilities manage monetary receipts and stock up on medicinal cannabis, access controls should be highly restricted to the dispensary. Furthermore, a “WARNING” signage shall be posted at the entrance point of every dispensary mentioning the presence of ongoing surveillance.
The licensed dispensary is obligated to employ certified dispensers with a credential in any of the science, engineering, or business background.
Lastly, it is required of the licensed dispensary to have a contamination and recall plan to protect and preserve uncontaminated medical cannabis products when the need arises.
According to the laws and regulations of AMCC, medical cannabis can only be sold to registered and qualified patients and caregivers under the medical cannabis program. Below is a list of cannabis products showing which forms are permitted and strictly prohibited.
MEDICAL CANNABIS PRODUCTS
|Tablets, Capsules, Tinctures, Topical Gels, Topical Oils, Topical Creams, Suppositories, Transdermal patches, nebulizers, liquid and oil inhalers||Raw plant material, Products that could be smoked or vaped, Food products such as cookies and candies|
The delivery of cannabis and medicinal cannabis is only restricted between licensed cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries. According to the laws of AMCC, the delivery of medicinal cannabis to direct patients and caregivers in the State of Alabama, is strictly prohibited regardless if they are registered and qualified. Medical cannabis can only be bought within the permitted retail premises of an integral facility or a dispensary facility.
Moreover, secure transporters are used to efficiently transport cannabis and medical cannabis among licensees’ facilities only. They use the seed-to-sale tracking system to document every transported cannabis product. On the other hand, they are not permitted to do the functions of any of the licensed facilities granted by the AMCC. There is no limit in the granting of licenses to secure transporters but they will however need to pay an annual license fee of $30,000.
Secure transport should strictly employ drivers who are at least 21 years of age with a minimum of three years of driving experience. During the transit of cannabis, there should be at least two personnel in the vehicle, and they shall not leave the transport unattended.
There is a mandatory annual five-hour safety training for all employees of licensees, which is generally directed at the drivers and anyone accompanying the drivers during the transport of cannabis and medical cannabis.
The medical cannabis program under AMCC is still being developed as of March 2023. Therefore the registering of patients and caregivers is not yet available. As of the AMCC schedule, licenses will begin to be issued on July 10, 2023. Once licenses are issued, certified physicians can start recommending medicinal cannabis to qualified and registered patients.
Patients will have to undergo a thorough medical assessment by a certified physician. Below are the conditions to qualify for medicinal cannabis:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Spinal cord injury
Sickle cell anemia
Autism Spectrum Disorder
The patient must be at least 19 years of age, while the caregiver must at least be 21 years of age. Both must be registered with AMCC with a valid medical cannabis card. Patients 18 years and under are required to be accompanied by a registered caregiver.
There are no statistics or studies on this as of March 2023 since the AMCC has yet to issue the licenses to operate medicinal cannabis facilities in Baldwin County this coming June 2023.
Medical cannabis has been a topic of debate for many years. Despite the ongoing discussions, it wasn’t until 2021 that medical cannabis was legalized in the State of Alabama. Before this, the use and possession of cannabis were often illegal and punishable by law.
As of March 2023, no records have been found regarding crimes against the laws of cannabis use or possession on the FBI’s crime explorer. But, for future reference, the most recent and available records listed in the year 2017 found under the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office on the website, showed that there were 127 arrests for marijuana possession and 13 arrests for the selling of marijuana.
Moreover, there were 37 arrests made for driving under the influence. It is important to note that cannabis use can impair driving ability just like alcohol or any other dangerous substances.