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Opinion | Cannabis Commission can make a true impact with Hornet Medicinals

By approving the application from an HBCU, the AMCC can reshape the relationship young, Black Alabamians have with marijuana.


Black Alabamians are at least four times more likely to be jailed for marijuana possession than white citizens of the state. Those numbers were compiled by the ACLU from data provided by the state. 

Let’s be honest: it’s surprising that it’s only 400 percent now. 

In years past, the disparity – which is the 16th worst in the country in 2021 – was far worse. Earlier studies have found some Black citizens of the state more than 12 times more likely to be arrested for simple drug possession. 

These arrests for possessing a plant that is far less harmful than a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes have upended families and derailed promising careers. It has crushed the Black family unit. It has left good men and women languishing in jails and prisons for victimless crimes, while their loved ones, including their children, suffer. 

That has historically been the story of Black Alabamians and marijuana – a pathway to prison and poverty. But next week, there is an opportunity to craft … not necessarily a new story, but maybe a new, better chapter in that story. 

On the docket for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission next week is a license application for Hornet Medicinals. It is a company which is majority owned by Alabama State University, one of the nation’s oldest historically Black colleges. 

There will be no other application reviewed by the AMCC like Hornet Medicinals’. Not in its proposals and how it plans to operate. Not in the scope of its operation. And most definitely not in the community impact it potentially has for a host of young, Black Alabamians. 

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If you doubt this, go to the AMCC’s website and search out Hornet Medicinals’ application. It is almost completely unredacted, unlike so many of the other applications. You can see plainly what the university plans to do, how it plans to utilize Alabama’s foray into medical marijuana. 

In short, ASU wants to change the relationship, or at least the experience, that Black Alabamians have with marijuana – taking it from one of hardship and strife to business acumen and lifelong skills. 

If approved for a license, ASU would establish a new program of study for medical marijuana, in partnership with the Greenlight company. It would set up the program at its Brewton campus – and it would be a fully immersive program operated almost entirely by students who are learning every aspect of the marijuana industry. 

The program would offer scholarships and paid internships, providing a pathway to lucrative careers in a rapidly expanding industry. It doesn’t hurt that the students would be partnered with Greenlight, a company that currently has reputable and high-scoring operations in at least five other states. That partnership makes those internships particularly valuable, as will the experience of working with experienced technicians and scientists. 

Honestly, if you’re the state of Alabama, how can you turn this down? 

It’s a license to better lives. 

And here’s the best part: Because ASU is a state institution, there will be no secrets. Unlike all of the other businesses who receive licenses, the general public will have an open window into everything that happens at Hornet Medicinals. 

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Given what has happened so far in this needlessly secretive licensing process, that seems like a pretty big plus. 

But despite all of the upside, Hornet Medicinals has so far received little love from the Commission. There has been talk that some commissioners have taken issue with a public college being involved with medical marijuana, and some have floated the notion that the medical marijuana law passed by the legislature specifically prohibits it. 

I’d like someone to show that to me. Because I’ve read the law, and I can’t find it. A source familiar with the process also told APR that that specific question was posed to the Alabama Legislative Services Agency, and it also couldn’t find any prohibition on a state entity – including a state college – from receiving a license. 

So, there is no reason to deny Hornet Medicinals a license, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to approve it. 

The biggest being that there’s no better, more transformational, more impactful application in the bunch.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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