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Commissioners unsure if Madison County should allow medical marijuana dispensaries

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Medical marijuana could come to Madison County, if county commissioners vote to open the door for medical marijuana sales.

During a district committee meeting on Wednesday, commissioners discussed the pros and cons of allowing medical cannabis in their jurisdiction.

Although state lawmakers have approved medical marijuana across Alabama, it is up to city and county leaders to approve operations and dispensaries in their areas.

“Our decision is not whether medical marijuana is beneficial,” District 4 Commissioner Phil Vandiver said. “I think that’s the decision of the legislature, and from what I understand, I think it’s a great place for them to start. Our decision is whether or not we’re going to let that rule Madison County.”

Companies certainly believe they should have the opportunity to dispense with medical marijuana, with many already applying for a license.

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission accepts applications for commercial licenses for growers, processors, dispensaries, and integrated facilities. Applications will be sent out on October 24th.

Sixth District Commissioner Violet Edwards said the state received 179 applications for filing within the first six days of being accepted, and 19 of those applications came from Madison County.

However, business owners will not obtain these licenses if the operations are not approved by the county. Many commissioners have concerns about what the county’s dispensaries might look like.

“They can put it anywhere in an unincorporated area they want, because we don’t have zoning rules, and our sheriff’s department will have to maintain and monitor them,” Vandiver said.

“The concern is the abuse and those who manipulate the process and manipulate the law,” said Commission Chair Dale Strong.

Even if the commission approves medical marijuana operations, there is no guarantee that the county will have a dispensary.

“These licenses won’t be granted like candy,” District 5 Commissioner Phil Riddick said. “There won’t be like CBD stores on every corner. There are only four licenses statewide.”

The state issues four licenses for dispensaries, in addition to five licenses for integrated facilities. Each licensee can operate multiple facilities, but there will only be 37 dispensaries throughout Alabama.

This made some commissioners question whether it would be worth pursuing when the city of Huntsville has a better chance.

“If I only had five or four potential sites, I don’t think I would want to put two sites in the same county,” Riddick said.

Huntsville has not yet approved dispensaries within the city limits. The Madison County Commission’s attorney said he would not rule out the possibility of both Huntsville and Madison County obtaining a license, given the extensive medical presence from Huntsville Hospital and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The county commission did not vote on whether they wanted the option to sell medical cannabis in the area. They just discussed the option.

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