BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham has become the latest city in Alabama to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to be open for business. However, it will be a while before any pop up in town.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city. The ordinance was recommended by Mayor Randall Woodfin and passed with seven councilors approving the motion while one abstained from the vote.
Cities that have previously adopted similar ordinances include Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Cullman, Daphne, Dothan, Foley, Glencoe, Good Hope, Killen, Loxley, Owens Cross Roads and Russellville.
Some council members had questions about how the city would be able to regulate these dispensaries. Applications would be accepted through the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, who would also approve licensing. However, Woodfin said the city would have the ability to approve zoning guidance on where dispensaries could be located.
“We have a process that we need to work out, and it’s not even in draft form,” Woodfin said.
Councilor Hunter Williams brought up how some neighborhoods may not want dispensaries in their areas. Woodfin responded by addressing the stigma of medical marijuana.
“This is not a CBD store,” he said. “If you don’t have a prescription or card, you can’t even buy anything.”
Councilor Darrell O’Quinn agreed with Woodfin, saying the council needs to approach this from a health care perspective.
“This is about healthcare and access to medicine,” O’Quinn said.
In May 2021, the Alabama legislature approved a bill authorizing the production of medical marijuana by licensed growers, producers and distributors.
The approval of that bill also lead to the creation of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which has 14 members. Several cities and counties have sent their ordinances to the commission and Birmingham is looking to join the list.
The new ordinance will put rules and regulations in place for people who want to own a medical cannabis dispensary in Birmingham.
Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander said this will have a significant impact on the medical industry in Birmingham.
“We know that many people affected by many different disease type they are truly helped by receiving this type of treatment,” Alexander said.
Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission Director John McMillian said medical cannabis could bring $200 million to the state.
Starting Oct. 31, the commission will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensaries. The deadline for the commission to accept applications will be Dec. 30 with licenses being issued by July 2023.