Cities in Baldwin County approve allowing medical cannabis dispensaries

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 9/30/22

FOLEY — Medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming to one or more Baldwin municipalities in upcoming months, local officials said.

The Alabama Legislature approved an act to allow up to …

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Cities in Baldwin County approve allowing medical cannabis dispensaries

Posted

FOLEY — Medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming to one or more Baldwin municipalities in upcoming months, local officials said.

The Alabama Legislature approved an act to allow up to 37 medical cannabis dispensaries to be created across the state. In order for a dispensary to be allowed in a municipality, the city council must vote to approve the proposal, Michael Thompson, Foley city administrator, said.

The Foley City Council and Daphne City Council both voted Sept. 19 to give final approval for those cities to be considered as a site. The Fairhope City Council also discussed the proposal Monday, Sept. 26. Mayor Sherry Sullivan said the plan would be brought back to the council for a vote in October.
Thompson said the approval allows the cities to be considered but does not mean a dispensary will be established in that community.

"The state of Alabama has given approval for medical cannabis in our state and the Alabama Department of Agriculture set up a commission called the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission," Thompson said. "One of the things that they do is hand out licenses for different components of that industry. When it's all said and done, they will likely have approved dispensary licenses and in total will come out to about 37 dispensaries across the state."

Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the fact that one of Baldwin County's three hospitals is located in the city could be a factor in Foley being considered as one of the dispensary locations.

"We were told that they try to locate these dispensaries near major medical facilities," Hellmich said. "Of course, we have the hospital here. There's three in Baldwin County, so they will not be all over the place. I wouldn't be surprised if there's only one in the county."

Hellmich said the dispensaries will be more restrictive than most standard pharmacies.

"These are extremely restrictive," Hellmich said. "Without a prescription, you can't even walk in the door and Alabama's law is probably the most restrictive in the nation. It's not going to be like some of the other states that you see that are pretty wide open."

Thompson said the medication would be dispensed as a tablet to be swallowed and would not be the smokeable type of marijuana.

Daphne Mayor Robin LeJeune said the council's approval is not an endorsement but will allow an applicant for a license to locate in the city if that application is approved.

"All it is, is saying Daphne will allow it if someone gets selected and they choose Daphne as a location," LeJeune said. "The city council voted on a resolution just really to say it can come to Daphne if it's approved by the state and whoever that group makes those decisions."

LeJeune said Daphne is also a location near several medical facilities.

"It's more about helping people than say a revenue source," LeJeune said. "It's really taking another step leading in the state is what we're looking at. The city council, myself, the city of Daphne, we've got Thomas Hospital. You've got the Infirmary. You've got Southern Cancer Institute. You've got South Alabama in Mobile. We are surrounded by a lot of cancer treatment centers in our area, and we want to help people."

One benefit of medical cannabis is relieving the effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients. LeJeune said he understands the effects of that treatment.

"I have been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, colon cancer, and I am in chemotherapy right now and fortunately for me, I haven't had to try to find other sources to combat the side effects of chemo," LeJeune said. "They are harsh."

LeJeune said cities have until October to approve allowing dispensaries and the state will decide after that deadline which applications from businesses will be approved.

Thompson said that with 37 potential dispensaries to be approved for all 67 counties in Alabama, Baldwin County is not expected to have many cannabis distribution sites.

"The important thing to realize is there are 67 counties in Alabama. There are going to be 37 dispensaries, so you figure one dispensary will about cover two counties across this state," Thompson said. "More or likely, there's only going to be one in Baldwin County."

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