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City of Huntsville considers medical cannabis program

The City of Huntsville is taking cautious steps toward participating in Alabama’s new medical cannabis system.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — After giving careful consideration to the new medical option, Huntsville city administrators believe making medical cannabis products available to qualified patients under the care of a physician would be beneficial for those suffering from chronic and terminal illnesses.  Alabama is the 37th state to allow use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The law creating Alabama’s medical cannabis system received bipartisan support in the state legislature.  

"A couple years ago, the state legislature passed a law, allowing medical cannabis in the state of Alabama," stated Henry Thorton, External Relations officer for the city. "So now cities are deciding whether they are going to allow the dispensing sites, essentially the places that sell these medical cannabis products to operate in our city limits or not."

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To begin, the City is proposing a zoning plan, which will be in addition to the heavy levels of state regulation implemented by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC). Huntsville’s Planning Commission will begin evaluating zoning recommendations Oct. 12. Thomas Nunez, Manager of Planning services says the future site of the new dispensaries won't be a threat to residential neighborhoods.

"It would be specifically the medical districts," Nunez stated. "Also, there are particular facilities of the processes, the cultivators, the state testing laboratories, and the integrated facilities will also be allowed in another district."

As required by recently enacted state law, municipal governments must pass an ordinance and inform the state if they wish to allow dispensing sites to operate in their communities. At the City Council’s upcoming Oct. 13 meeting, the city will introduce an ordinance authorizing dispensing sites in Huntsville. Following Council consideration, a vote could come two weeks later. If Council approves the ordinance on Oct. 27, the city will finalize a zoning plan and implement any needed changes to City license and tax requirements.   

“We’re taking a thoughtful and measured approach to make certain we get this right,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.   

Mayor Battle emphasizes Alabama’s medical cannabis program does not legalize or sanction recreational marijuana. Rather, it is a strictly controlled and highly regulated program intended to provide a medical grade product in the authorized form of tablets, cubes, topicals, suppositories, patches, nebulizers and inhalable liquids.   

RELATED: Huntsville residents weigh in on possible changes in marijuana possession charges

The conditions for use of medicinal cannabis include cancer-related pain, weight loss, and vomiting; autism spectrum disorder; Crohn’s disease; depression; epilepsy or conditions causing seizures; HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss; panic disorder; Parkinson’s disease; persistent nausea that it not responsive to traditional treatment; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); sickle cell anemia; spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis or spinal cord injury; Tourette’s syndrome; a terminal illness; and conditions causing chronic or intractable pain.  

To be eligible to participate in the program, patients must be diagnosed with at least one of these qualifying medical conditions by a physician certified by the state to recommend medical cannabis to patients.  

The earliest anticipated date dispensaries could be operable would be mid-2023 after the AMCC grants the licenses. 

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