Getting ready for a green wave in red states

There will soon be more legal bud in the Bible Belt.

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) this week awarded its first 21 licenses to grow, manufacture and sell a tightly controlled mix of marijuana products. While smoking the plant will still be forbidden, card-holding patients with at least one of 15 qualifying conditions will soon have the liberty to imbibe via capsules, creams, and suppositories as well as inhalable oils and liquids. Gummies are also OK, so long as they come flavored in peach.

Chicago-based multistate operator Verano Holdings won one of the state’s five vertically-integrated licenses for a new state market observers anticipate will come online within the next six-to-nine months. TheraTrue, an up-and-coming multistate operator based in Georgia and with operations in Virginia, also won what is referred to by the AMCC as an “integrated license”. The company is African American-owned with roots in Florida’s $1.6 billion medical program.

The next frontier of legal U.S. cannabis markets are red states in the South that are adopting variations of mostly blue state models originated in the Midwest and Northeast where licenses are limited and regulatory compliance is high. There is at least one clear difference. Alabama and Georgia, both new medical-only markets, do not at this point have licenses carved out for individuals most disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The 90 AMCC license applications were judged by evaluators brought in by the University of Alabama who reviewed each group’s business projections, leadership team, security plan, and ability to capitalize operations. There were winners and there were losers. There wasn’t immediate widespread panic nor backlash to a complex scoring system.

“I felt the Commission did their best with the tools that were handed to them”, said Antoine Mordican, the CEO of Native Black Cultivation explained to the Alabama Reflector after learning his group did not win a license.

At this stage, it appears that the 80 percent of likely Alabama voters polled who favor the legalization of medical marijuana may not have to wait too long for their state’s program to get up and rolling. On day one, ownership of the state’s most lucrative license class is more diverse than in states like Illinois and New York that have high-minded social equity programs that have not as of yet been implemented with fidelity.

One sunbelt state is also at the forefront of federally-funded research. This week the University of Mississippi received a $2 million contract from a division of the National Institute of Health for clinical research on the plant. The University’s newly formed National Center for Cannabis Research and Education is one of eight U.S. research institutions set up to secure funding from the NIH and other federal organizations. The state of Mississippi, where THC may soon become as sweet as Tupelo Honey, also began its medical program earlier this year with $265 million projected in year one sales.

Florida’s already mature medical market is inching closer to adult-use sales. Leading state operator Trulieve this week contributed $550,000 to a now $29 million initiative focused on making the Sunshine state the 24th in the Union to go rec.

While the Texas legislature failed to pass a bill to expand the Lone Star state’s nascent medical program, popular support among the state’s 30 million residents is rising. Decriminalizing a plant made famous by the state’s native son Willie Nelson will go a long way towards keeping Austin weird.

The beat goes on. As Washington D.C. lawmakers gear up for another debate around vital cannabis industry viability issues like SAFE Banking and 280e in the coming months, they should pay attention to non-linear changes in voter perceptions toward cannabis. The cannabis industry is a hit in even the deepest red of red states.

Those markets coming online today are learning from the missteps of the more pioneering states that preceded them. It is wise to incorporate what works and what doesn’t in the nearly 40 state markets currently serving as laboratories for what will eventually become one federally regulated program. The more varying approaches we have the better we all shall be.

Roll Tide…

Chicago-based social impact organization, 40 Tons, in partnership with presenting sponsor Good Green, has announced plans to host the sixth 40 Tons Level Up Career Conference & Business Expo in Chicago on June 19, Juneteenth.

The event, held at the Malcolm X College Conference Center, aims to promote restorative justice and equitable access to career opportunities. The conference is centered around five key areas: Employment, Expungement, Education, Empowerment, and Engagement. With a focus on the cannabis industry, the organization aims to close gaps within all industries and provide resources for attendees to advance their careers.

Good Green, a cannabis brand dedicated to supporting communities affected by the War on Drugs, is the presenting sponsor. The event will include an expungement clinic and comprehensive services, along with sessions on professional development, personal growth, and entrepreneurship. The conference also offers resume development, LinkedIn optimization, grooming services, and professional headshots.

The Level Up Career Conference has previously been successful in other cities, resulting in interviews, hiring on the spot, and scholarships. For registration and more information, visit”

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.