As Alabama continues to delay the rollout of a medical marijuana program, jobs in the field remain limited, as does research for future medicine.
“Alabama came a little bit late to the game,” said Desmond Mortley, the professor who leads the industrial hemp research program at Tuskegee University.
When the federal government decriminalized hemp in 2018, colleges jumped at the opportunity to research the plant while sticking to the tight restrictions that require less than 0.3% THC, the intoxicating ingredient.
Then, three years later came the legalization of medical cannabis for Alabama. The six Alabama schools with hemp programs were ready to expand their research to medical uses for the plant and prepare students for more jobs in the field. But lawsuits have tied up the rollout, and the state’s medical cannabis program still isn’t ready.
For now, Alabama’s hemp jobs are concentrated in growing and cultivation, said Mortley, research professor of plant and soil sciences. But the market is oversaturated, as the value of the plant for its CBD percentage has tanked, he said. And the state hasn’t yet greenlit cannabis cultivation for medical use.
So most of the jobs are elsewhere, in other states where more is happening with cannabis production and processing. Mortley said he gets calls from states such as Colorado and Kentucky, where leaders are looking to recruit Alabama students for research and other related jobs.
Once medical cannabis production is underway in…