Only the cultivation of cannabis for medical use in Tuscaloosa County is legal by virtue of the May 2021 Alabama Act 2021-450. This created the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC), which is the body in charge of regulating and licensing medical cannabis businesses, such as medical cannabis cultivation. Licensed medical cannabis cultivators are also subject to relevant administrative rules of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
On September 1, 2022, medical cannabis business license applications were accepted through December 30 of the same year. Companies that intended to grow medical cannabis commercially had to apply for the medical cannabis integrated facility license or the medical cannabis cultivator license from the AMCC. The holder of the integrated facility license is permitted to grow, manufacture, and dispense medical marijuana.
Background checks are required of both types of license holders and their workers. The application fee for both licenses is $2,500. The yearly integrated facility licensing charge is $50,000, while it is $40,000 for the cultivator license. Licensed integrated facilities and cultivators must also carry a minimum of $2 million in liability and casualty insurance.
A maximum of five medical cannabis integrated facility licenses and 12 medical cannabis cultivator licenses will be issued by the AMCC. A total of 38 integrated facility license applications and 12 cultivator license applications were submitted but licenses have not yet been awarded as of March 2023.
Cannabis must be grown indoors, either in a licensed integrated facility or a licensed cultivation facility. Separate pots need to be used for each plant. Direct ground planting is not permitted. Individual potting provides mobility, cross-contamination prevention, and convenience of individual marking for the identification of each plant. The state's tracking system for seeds to sales requires that all plants be recorded.
The entire property of the licensed integrated facility or licensed cultivation facility must have a secure perimeter that is gated, fenced in, and lockable. Cannabis cultivation has to be hidden from the view of the public. Installation of a monitored, round-the-clock security system with ongoing video monitoring and alerts is required. Throughout business hours, a security guard must be on duty at all times. Only authorized employees with official badges are permitted admission, and their arrival and exit must be recorded. Any visitors' names, the reason for their visit, and the times they arrived and left must also be recorded.
Each licensed medical cannabis integrated facility or cultivation facility should conduct, at a minimum, quarterly product testing by an independent laboratory to determine if the products are free of pesticides or other dangerous substances.
Only the manufacturing of cannabis for medical use in Tuscaloosa County is legal as mandated by the Alabama Act 2021-450. To do legal commercial manufacturing of medical cannabis, a business needs an AMCC-issued integrated facility license or medical cannabis processor license. Only other licensed manufacturers or licensed dispensaries may purchase medical cannabis products that have been manufactured, packaged, and labeled by a licensed processor.
The payment of a $2,500 medical cannabis processor license application fee and a $40,000 yearly processor licensing fee is required. The deadline for applications was December 30, 2022. There were 12 medical cannabis processor license applications received but as of March 2023, none of them had yet been approved. A maximum of four medical cannabis processor licenses will be granted by the AMCC.
Holders of both medical cannabis processor facility and integrated facility licenses are subject to the AMCC rules and regulations for processors. The entire facility has to be securely gated, walled-in, and bolted. It is necessary to keep the facilities hidden from the sight of the general population. Continuous video surveillance, numerous alarm types, and a manned security system must be operational throughout the day. A security guard must stay on duty at all times during business hours. Every admission and departure should be accurately recorded, and only authorized personnel with official badges should be permitted entry. Every visitor's identity, the purpose for visiting, and the time of entering and departing must all be recorded.
Holders of the medical cannabis manufacturing or integrated license are required to submit all of their product batches for testing by an independent laboratory with state approval to guarantee that all of their products are uniform, safe, effective, and stable. Also, the registration of each product in the seed-to-sale monitoring database of the state is required.
The packaging for all medical cannabis products must adhere to the following regulations:
The packaging needs to be both child-proof and tamper-resistant.
The package must be specifically made to be unappealing to children.
The packaging cannot make any inaccurate claims regarding the health advantages of medical marijuana.
The package should have a printed or firmly fastened label with characters and numbers in readable quality and size.
The following details must be on the label:
The name and license number of the processor
The name and license number of the cannabis grower
The brand name
The type of product
The state seed-to-sale tracking system's data on the product lot and batch numbers
The quantity of the product in the packaging, measured in weight or units
The product's cannabis content and strength
The dates of production, testing, and packaging of the product
The expiry date of the product, if applicable
All marks and warnings mandated for inclusion by the AMCC
Information from the AMCC website regarding the Alabama Poison Control contact details
Only the retail selling of cannabis and cannabis products for medical use in Tuscaloosa County is legal as mandated by the Alabama Act 2021-450. These can only be sold to patients and caregivers registered in the Alabama Medical Cannabis Program, which is still being developed as of March 2023. Only dispensaries or integrated facilities licensed by the AMCC may sell medical cannabis and medical cannabis products. They must comply with the rules and regulations on medical cannabis dispensing of the AMCC.
A medical cannabis dispensary license costs $40,000 per year, and there is a $2,500 application fee. The deadline for application submissions was on December 30, 2022. There were 18 dispensary license applications received, but as of March 2023, none have been approved yet. The AMCC will only issue licenses for four medical marijuana dispensaries, each of which may have up to three sites. A maximum of five medical cannabis dispensary sites may, however, be operated by a licensed integrated facility, but the dispensaries must be in different Alabama counties.
If local governments want to permit licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in their areas, they must create their own ordinances saying so. Any town without such legislation in place will not be allowed to establish a licensed medical cannabis dispensary. In Tuscaloosa County, the City of Tuscaloosa had Ordinance No. 9259 signed on August 31, 2022, and the City of Northport had Ordinance No. 2158 approved on October 24, 2022, both allowing licensed medical cannabis dispensaries within their jurisdictions.
There must be at least 1,000 feet between a licensed medical marijuana dispensary and a daycare, childcare center, or school property boundary. It is allowed for licensed medical cannabis dispensaries to sell topical creams, tablets, capsules, suppositories, transdermal patches, gels, tinctures, oils, and liquids for use with inhalers, and cannabis products to be taken through nebulizers. Raw cannabis from plants, cannabis used through inhalation or vaporization, and cannabis-infused food are all prohibited from sale.
The facility's high level of security must be maintained by the licensed medical dispensary. All windows and doors must be secured with locks. The dispensary's interior should not be seen from the outside. During operational hours, a security guard must be on duty at the location. A security system with various alarms and ongoing video surveillance that is monitored around the clock is required. Only employees of the dispensary and those with valid medical cannabis cards should be permitted entry, and both groups must sign when they come and go. Any additional visitors must be there on business and must be registered.
A certified dispenser must be employed by the registered medical cannabis dispensary. This person must have completed a training program created by the AMCC, have a minimum of two years of education in a medical, nursing, or pharmacology-related profession, and be required to participate in continuing education with the AMCC yearly. All throughout the dispensary's business hours, the certified dispenser has to remain on duty and in charge of monitoring all sales to ensure compliance.
In order to verify that the amount of medical cannabis to be dispensed will not be putting the patient over the permitted purchasing limit, the licensed medical cannabis dispensary must compare the valid medical cannabis card presented by the patient or caregiver with the online registry. Each registered patient has a purchase limit of a 60-day supply of medical cannabis in any 60-day period, with the quantity determined according to the doctor’s certification of the patient.
The delivery of medical cannabis even to registered patients and caregivers is prohibited in Tuscaloosa County in accordance with AMCC regulations. Licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and integrated facilities can only sell medical cannabis within their indoor retail premises.
Only medical cannabis delivery among licensed cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries is legal.
As of March 2023, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Program is still being created. Once it has been established and medical cannabis business licenses have been granted by the AMCC, residents of Tuscaloosa County aged 19 and above may start the application process.
To qualify as applicants, they must first be examined by a licensed physician certified under the Medical Cannabis Program and diagnosed with one of the listed qualifying medical conditions, as follows:
Cancer resulting in chronic pain, cachexia, vomiting, or nausea
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sickle Cell Anemia
Multiple Sclerosis or spinal cord injury resulting in spasticity
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Any illness resulting in chronic or intractable pain
If the applicant is 18 years old or younger and diagnosed with one of those medical conditions, a caregiver must also be registered for the patient.
The legalization of medical cannabis in Alabama has not yet had an economic impact on Tuscaloosa County as of March 2023 because retail sales of medical cannabis have not yet begun. In its Annual Report for 2022, the AMCC stated that it anticipates the initial issuance of medical cannabis business licenses in Alabama to start on June 12, 2023.
Medical cannabis in Tuscaloosa County was legalized in 2021 but no medical cannabis dispensaries are yet operating as of March 2023.
For future comparisons, data from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office on the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that in the latest available data in 2019, before the legalization, there were 17 arrests for marijuana possession and five arrests for marijuana manufacturing or sales, totaling 22 marijuana offense arrests.
There were 81 DUI arrests in 2019.