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TUSCALOOSA, AL — Tuscaloosa developer and well-known businessman Stan Pate is lobbying Tuscaloosa city officials to lend their support to his latest venture — a large-scale medical cannabis grow operation for the city to serve as a supplier once the state begins giving out business licenses for dispensaries.
The application process, Pate explained, is a complicated one, with the facility owners required by law to identify its transportation and have a comprehensive security plan — not to mention the astronomical startup costs. At present, Pate says he has already invested $700,000 in the application process.
He also expressed a desire to partner with the University of Alabama for cannabinoid research.
“There would be about $30 million in additional modifications, equipment that would be added to the facility,” he said. “Specifically, these are very sophisticated [growing operations] that involve a lot of science as to what you feed the plants, how much light you give the plants, what strain you use. The goal with this plan is to do some cooperative work with the University of Alabama and research over these cannabinoids.”
The National Cancer Institute defines cannabinoids as the “type of chemical in marijuana that causes drug-like effects all through the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. The main active cannabinoid in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabinoids may help treat the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment.”
Pate is a vocal proponent of the medicinal properties of cannabis, particularly for those undergoing cancer treatment or suffering from chronic pain. He also reiterated that none of the products produced at his proposed operation would consist of raw flower or smokeable products — an approach that is mandated by the law passed by the state legislature setting the framework for medical cannabis in Alabama.
As Patch previously reported, the City of Tuscaloosa in August approved a measure that will allow medical cannabis dispensaries to operate within the city limits once the state begins offering businesses licenses. This decision was followed by a similar measure in Northport shortly thereafter as local municipalities scrambled to rewrite their laws and get in on the ground floor to then benefit from the sales tax windfall that is expected in the years after the dispensaries open.
Widely-accepted data from one study says Alabama is projected to retail approximately $48 million in the first full year of medical marijuana sales, before that number nearly triples to $163 million in the second year.
A 2021 study by the Pew Research Center found that 91% of American adults believe marijuana should be legalized either for medical use or recreational use, which underscores a generational shift in how the substance has been viewed by everyday Americans in the past.
In total, Pate estimates 50,000 square feet of growing space will be incorporated, along with roughly 10,000 square feet set aside for an extraction processing area. When the facility is operational, Pate expects it to create between 130-150 well-paying jobs.
“We believe [the proposed grow operation] leapfrogs us around the competition, they’re only going to be four other fully integrated facilities that allow you to grow, process and produce finished products. There are scattered people that are only applying to process, people who are only applying for dispensaries and people who are only applying for grow.”
The job creation is significant, Pate argued, going on to say those numbers will not include the economic impact had by Tuscaloosa’s proposed dispensary once it opens. Additionally, Pate said he will be submitting an application for a dispensary in Jefferson County, a dispensary in Oxford, Alabama and one in Gadsden.
Pate also said he is in the process of securing land in north Alabama for a site in either Florence or Madison.
“When I got the application, I didn’t imagine it was going to take a number of consultants, experts and so forth to put it together,” Pate said of the application’s complexitiesAs. “But again, it’s a thousand pages long.”
Pate then came to hiss specific reason for visiting the City Council when he asked for a resolution or a letter of support from the city to be added to his application with the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
“The commission is taking questions on a daily basis to further clarify [the legality of grow operations],” Pate said. “This is a big step for the state. And most people believe it ultimately leading to recreational [cannabis], decriminalization and recreational sales. Alabama’s pretty slow.”
In lobbying for the Council’s support on paper, Pate explained that a crucial part of the application process requires the prospective owner to seek letters of support validating their standing in their community, civic engagement and charitable contributions.
“If we’re successful … and it creates a lot of jobs, created a lot of jobs for students and really the research side of it and the things that we don’t know about the cannabinoids and what they may do for the health of our lives of people is something that really, really excites me,” Pate said.
Pate’s application deadline is Dec. 19 and the City Council, after offering vocal support for Pate, will now consider whether the city will draft a formal resolution to do so or provide individual letters of support for the venture.