FAIRHOPE – The decision by the Fairhope City Council to not allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the municipality leaves four possible locations for the facilities in Baldwin County with at …
FAIRHOPE – The decision by the Fairhope City Council to not allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the municipality leaves four possible locations for the facilities in Baldwin County with at least one other studying the proposal, according to local and state officials.
A resolution to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Fairhope was on the council agenda on Monday, Oct. 24. No council member made a motion to vote on the resolution, however, killing the proposal.
"It seems like there's not much interest in moving forward," Council President Jimmy Conyers said.
All five council members said at the meeting that they would vote against the resolution if it came to a vote. Conyers said most residents who spoke at two council meetings and who contacted council members have opposed the plan.
"I have no medical background so I can't speak to the benefits of it, but it seems like the majority of citizens in Fairhope that have at least spoken up and reached out have not been in favor of it and if the only redeeming reason that you're coming up with to do it is to generate some tax revenue and that's potentially debatable whether you would be able to charge taxes if it's considered pharmaceutical," Conyers said.
During the meeting, four residents said they opposed allowing dispensaries in Fairhope and one supported the proposal.
Carol Wilson said medical marijuana contains the substances THC and CBD, unlike other drugs approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
"Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective," she said. "This deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns."
Zachary Huey, who supported the plan, said medical marijuana has helped patients in other parts of the country. He said that in areas where the substance has been approved for medical use, crime rates and accidents have not increased. He said no deaths can be attributed to marijuana, unlike some other drugs now prescribed for patients.
"Opioids have caused 92,000 deaths in 2020 alone," Huey said. "Providing people an alternative to the much more dangerous narcotics already readily available is a valuable asset to our community."
Councilman Jack Burrell said Fairhope residents who are prescribed medical marijuana will still be able to get prescriptions filled in Baldwin County if dispensaries are approved in any of the cities that have voted to allow the facilities.
"Foley and Daphne both passed an ordinance allowing this," Burrell said. "I don't think that if we were to deny this, we would deprive our citizens the ability to go somewhere and get a prescription filled, but for me, I'm listening to the vast majority of people, the overwhelming majority of people who have contacted me and if it makes it to a vote, I'm casting my vote against it."
In addition to Foley and Daphne, Spanish Fort and Loxley have also approved possible dispensaries in their corporate limits, according to information from the Alabama Cannabis Commission.
In Gulf Shores, city officials are putting together a committee to study the proposal Mayor Robert Craft said at the City Council work session on Oct. 17.
"We've had an application to put a dispensary-type project within the city and that has created a lot of questions, a lot of phone calls back and forth," Craft said. "So, what I've decided to do is put a medical cannabis committee together, well-represented, to have some conversations within the community to help us come to a conclusion of whether that is the right thing to put here or not. There's a lot of different views and we're not going to debate those tonight, but we're going to work as hard as we can to get a consensus from groups on both sides from around the community to try to get input as to whether this fits in our community."
The Alabama Legislature voted earlier this year to allow medical marijuana use under a doctor's prescription. Under the plan, marijuana could be dispensed from up to 37 sites across Alabama.
The legislation allows four licenses to be issued for dispensaries. Each licensee would be allowed to open up to four dispensaries. A dispensary license would cost $40,000.
Five licenses will be issued for integrated facilities that would allow license holders to carry out all the steps in the process, from cultivation to dispensing medical marijuana products to patients. Each license holder would be allowed to operate five facilities. An integrated facility license fee would be $50,000, according to Cannabis Commission reports.
Other licenses would also be issued for cultivators, processors, secure transporters and testing laboratories.
As of Oct. 17, the commission had received 607 requests for applications, including 133 for integrated facilities and 239 for dispensaries.
The Alabama Cannabis Commission is scheduled to vote June 12, 2023 to approve or deny license applications. Approved licenses will be issued July 10, according to commission reports.