The deadline to request an application for a medical marijuana license in Alabama expired yesterday.

Director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) John McMillan said applications for licenses would be going out October 24 along with guidelines on what the AMCC is looking for in a potential applicant.

“That’s where folks are going to really find out what the evaluators are going to be looking at, and the point system and those kinds of things will be a part of that,” McMillan said on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "Midday Mobile" radio show.

Applicants will have until the end of the year to submit their forms, at which time evaluations will begin.

“[The University of South Alabama] is going to be the lead entity working with other universities in the state and also with other experts in different fields of license application to identify the very best qualified candidates that we possibly can to award licenses, probably next June,” McMillan said.

He said applications might be evaluated differently depending on the type of license being applied for, such as cultivator, transport or dispenser. He said that’s where the field experts come in. He gave the example of Auburn University’s horticulture department potentially evaluating applications for cultivator licenses.

“Ultimately, it's going to be the commissioners themselves that make the final decisions because we also are tasked by the Legislature with not only choosing the licensees but also being sure that they’re geographically proportioned," he said.

Hours before the deadline Monday, McMillan said the AMCC had received 566 requests for application across all license types.

The commission will be able to issue just 37 dispensary licenses. However, after a year, McMillan said he expects that number may need to increase. Part of the challenge with having a limited number of licenses to give is making sure they are spread out among central locations where they can meet the greatest need.

“Bear in mind, significant areas of Alabama are underserved medically already,” he said. “So it’s going to be a challenge since this product can only be sold through the dispensaries, it’s going to be a challenge to provide this to patients that need it in medically underserved parts of the state.”

On top of those challenges, McMillan said medical marijuana could be a risky business for investors given its unprecedented and highly regulated nature.

“We don’t know how many doctors are going to participate in this and recommend these products because it’s all cash, which is another whole problem with the banking industry and so forth,” McMillan said. “... It’s an entrepreneurial program, and folks that are willing to take the risk are going to have a substantial investment.

“Our job primarily is regulators. We’re going to be doing a lot of inspections. We’re going to be doing a lot of lab work to test the quality … It’s a pretty big deal. The Legislature and our commission too are extremely confident and focused on having a good quality, safe, secure product for the patients in Alabama that qualify for the medication.”

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