Gadsden is “rolling out the red carpet,” in the words of city leaders, to try to bring medical cannabis dispensaries or production facilities to the city, with the appointment of a task team to assist with managing the influx of inquiries from applicants seeking licenses to operate such businesses in Gadsden.

“This is a rare opportunity to be ‘first to market’ for a brand, new sector of industry in the state of Alabama,” Mayor Craig Ford said.

At last week’s council meeting, council member Jason Wilson said a medical cannabis business has the potential to be a $3 million to $4 million business in the city, bringing an estimated 125 jobs.

The Gadsden City Council approved a measure, as required by state law, indicating its open for medical cannabis businesses. Wilson said there’s some urgency with the issue because of permit application deadlines. Glencoe, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery have passed similar measures.

“The legislation authorizing medical cannabis was passed by the Alabama Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey. This pill-form medical cannabis is highly regulated, controlled and extremely beneficial to the patients who need it,” Ford said. “With the incoming regional cancer treatment center and our dynamic network of hospitals, clinics and physicians, bringing this industry to Gadsden will be a major economic complement forour community.”

The task team will coordinate contacts and outreach for the various types of businesses that express interest or inquire about property and regulations in Gadsden, to ensure that those businesses have everything they need to meet the state’s deadline to apply to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

The team consists of: • John Moore, member of Ford’s transition team• Jason Wilson, city council member for District 5• Larry Avery, city council member for District 3• Brett Johnson, chief of staff to the mayor• Nick Hall, director of planning for the City of Gadsden• Tina Cody, zoning administrator for the City of Gadsden• Lesa Osborn, director of the Gadsden Commercial Development Authority• David Hooks, director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority• Erin Patterson, paralegal for the City of Gadsden

Fewer than 30 municipalities have passed ordinances or resolutions authorizing medical cannabis businesses. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission will take applications and review them. The number of permits for various types of licenses are limited and obtaining them is expected to be competitive.

Last week, Gadsden’s Planning Commission approved a recommended zoning chart of permitted uses to clarify where each type of cannabis business would be allowed to operate in the city.

According to Ford’s office, the proposed zoning regulations are as friendly as possible to those interested in obtaining a license to operate in Gadsden.

Businesses that have obtained applications will have a Dec. 30, 2022, deadline to submit those applications to the cannabis commission for one of the following types of business licenses:

  • Integrated facility license: No more than five licenses for integrated facilities will be awarded. Each licensee may operate up to five dispensing sites. Integrated facilities will be authorized to cultivate cannabis and process it into medical cannabis, including proper packaging and labeling of products; dispense and sell medical cannabis only to a registered qualified patient or registered caregiver; transport cannabis or medical cannabis between its facilities; and to sell or transfer medical cannabis to a dispensary. The annual license fee is $50,000.
  • Cultivator license: No more than 12 licenses will be awarded, to allow cultivation of cannabis; sale or transfer of cannabis to a processor; and the sale or transfer of its medical cannabis to a dispensary if it contracts processing of its cannabis to medical cannabis. The annual license fee is $40,000.
  • Processor license: No more than four licenses will be awarded. Licenses will allow the purchase or transfer of cannabis from a cultivator; the processing of cannabis into medical cannabis, including properly packaging and labeling in accordance with the law; and the sale and transfer of medical cannabis to a dispensary. The annual license fee is $40,000.
  • Dispensary license: No more than four licenses will be awarded, and each licensee may operate up to three dispensing sites. A dispensary license authorizes the purchase or transfer of medical cannabis from a processor; the purchase or transfer of medical cannabis from the cultivator if a cultivator has contracted with a processor; the purchase or transfer of medical cannabis from an integrated facility; and the dispensing and sale of medical cannabis only to a registered qualified patient or registered caregiver. The annual license fee is $40,000.
  • Secure Transporter license: There is no limit on licenses, which authorize the licensee to store and transport cannabis and medical cannabis for a fee upon request of a licensee. A license does not authorize transport to a registered qualified patient or registered caregiver. The annual license fee is $30,000.
  • State Testing Laboratory license: There is no limit on licenses for laboratories authorized to possess and test cannabis and medical cannabis products cultivated or processed at licensed facilities. The annual fee is $30,000.

It is anticipated that approved licensees will strive to begin operations by June 1, 2023, according to the mayor’s office.