Thursday afternoon marks the application deadline for anyone hoping to get in on the medical cannabis business in Alabama.

Though the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) received nearly 600 requests for an application, executive director John McMillan said on Midday Mobile that just 10 have been submitted as of Tuesday afternoon. He also said he expects that number to increase significantly in the coming hours.

Once the deadline passes, evaluators will analyze the applications and score them based on eight factors, including financial planning, security measures and "geographic dispersal," McMillan said.

"We need to know exactly where it is because we just have 37 dispensaries all over the whole state, and, of course, we want to do everything we can to put them in places where they'll be able to serve the most patients," he said.

After the program is up and running for a few years, McMillian said the Commission might add more dispensary sites where needed.

"That's one area where the Legislature did — its the only area almost — where the Legislature did give the Commission a little bit of slack because after the first year or so if the Commission sees that we are underserved in some areas, we will be able to add dispensaries," he said.

Another requirement for businesses is that they must be at least 51% owned by an Alabama resident. Still, McMillan said some out-of-state expertise "almost has to be involved."

"There's only been about 38 to 40 states doing this now. Some of them have been doing it for eight or 10 years, so obviously, they know more and have had more experience in growing the plants," he said. "… But we've got people in Alabama that certainly have had a good experience with CBD and similar products that are certainly qualified and will be applicants, in my opinion.

"... There's over 100 different medical compounds that can come from the marijuana plant, and that's one of the things I always try to remember to really give a shout-out to our Legislature on because they provided for 30% of the revenue that comes in to go for research and development, and that's where the United States as a whole is very much behind almost the whole rest of the world… Medical cannabis is not a panacea, but it's not poison either."

McMillan said some have estimated medical marijuana sales could eventually generate as much as $200 million in sales tax revenue. The remaining 70% of revenue will go toward funding the AMCC and the state's General Fund.

If things stay on schedule, McMillan said the AMCC would officially award licenses on June 12, and he estimated the first products hit dispensary shelves by December 2023.

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