In court filings and comments made to the media, Alabama Always has been adamant that it is ready to meet the law’s mandate to have the cultivation process ready to begin within 60 days of being issued a license — and that many other applicants are not.
The company invited media out to its West Montgomery facility to show just how much progress has been made on the site to prepare for cultivation.
Construction on the facility began in 2022 and more than $5 million has been spent to date according to the company to ensure it would be ready to cultivate product within 60 days of receiving a license.
“In fact, Alabama Always, had it received a license, would have been able to put medical cannabis in storefronts by December 2023,” the company said in a statement released alongside the tour invitation. “According to information received, many applicants which did receive a license most likely would not be similarly ready by the end of this year.”
What that looks like on site is primarily structures, including greenhouse-type buildings where the seed would be cultivated and a building where the product would then be extracted and transformed into the products approved by the commission.
Dr. Greg Gerdeman, chief scientific officer for the company, led the tour and said that these facilities, as well as materials neatly stacked up around the site, are what takes so long to prepare and acquire. He said the company already owns an extraction machine that is ready to “plop down” in the facility when and if the company is awarded a license.
He also clarified that some work has paused while the commission reconsiders the licenses to be awarded. In contrast, other work continues as planned, noting electrical work in the greenhouses for example must continue because they have already contracted with a company to do that and would lose the contract if they had to send the workers home.
Gerdeman emphasized the strict requirements around processing cannabis to pharmaceutical standards.
“A theme we’re going to really hit on today is the time it takes to really create a facility that grows cannabis to the pharmaceutical standard of cleanliness and pathogen control that will be required,” Gerdeman said. “Our concern is that many applicants, whether they were scored in the top five or not, are not going to be ready in 60 days and onsite inspections could have and should have been done to verify who is ready for this.”
Commission Director John McMillan said after a status conference on Thursday that the onsite inspections come between the license being awarded and actually being issued; if an applicant fails the onsite inspection, that license could be revoked and awarded to another applicant.
Gerdeman noted the new power line coming into the facility, and poles that will be used for placement of security cameras as security will be an important factor for an integrated facility.
Some of the sites may only be able to achieve cultivation within 60 days in the most technical of senses, Gerdeman said, starting 10-15 plants and expanding from there, but Alabama Always appears to have built out the infrastructure necessary to begin cultivation in a much larger capacity.
The facility, if granted, would be expected to employ 30 people at the beginning and as many as 60 people after coming into full operation.