Though the Huntsville City Council approved months ago to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Huntsville, the question remained on if and how to regulate their location within the municipal limits. On Thursday, the Council voted to keep any future medical marijuana dispensary within the city’s medical district.
Running along Governors Drive and Madison Street, the “tightly packed” medical district is home to the Huntsville Hospital system and various medical research and healthcare organizations. While the area may seem like a natural fit for medical cannabis, some council members had their doubts.
“When I think of the Medical District, it’s a very small area, right?” Councilman for District 2 David Little said. “Generally, I’m trying to think, where is a spot that is in the medical district that a dispensary can be put?”
Little said he could think of 10 potential spots, but some may be disallowed due to their proximity to a residential area.
Councilman Devyn Keith took it a step further, saying the zoning amendment would be "redlining" the area commercially by increasing property values in one place and lowering them in others.
"If we make this decision today, in my view, you are redlining commercially some places, and you're increasing the property value of other places through real governmental intervention," he said.
He added that in five years, those dispensaries who "got in first" would have a virtual monopoly on the area where there would be even less property at higher prices.
"That's redlining," he said.
When asked by Councilman Bill Kling as to why the dispensaries would be limited to the medical district, Manager of Planning Services Thomas Nunez said the idea was to start slow, reevaluate with more information and later expand.
"We started off this very, very conservatively," Mayor Tommy Battle said. "We don't know what we don't know. We have heard what other areas have done, but each one of them is somewhat comparing apples to oranges… We will stay conservative on it until we see what the results are…"
Thirty-seven applicants have applied for dispensary licenses so far. External Relations Officer for the Huntsville Mayor's Office Henry Thorton said during the meeting that applicants have until December 30 to submit their applications, which must include a list of all of their proposed dispensing sites.
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