Is experience growing medical-grade cannabis really that important for the applicants seeking to hold an integrated license in Alabama? That was one of the biggest lingering questions after nearly 30 applicants slogged through presentations before commissioners last week. Those applicants had an array of experience and even more explanations for why their varying degrees of experience mattered.

A couple claimed experience growing tomatoes. Others mentioned hemp experience. Still, others talked about years of wide-ranging horticulture experience. They all said their unique experiences were qualification enough to meet the minimum requirements of Alabama’s law.

And while that’s technically true – Alabama’s law, as written, requires only 15 years of horticulture experience – industry experts tell a different story. They say that the process of growing medical-grade cannabis requires unique knowledge, specific tools, and an extremely controlled environment.

Even with all of that, there are still problems. “In most states, compliance (for hemp production) is only focused on keeping d9-THC content below the 0.3 percent by weight level, which is the threshold for calling the plant ‘hemp,’” said Dr. Gregory Gerdeman, a neuroscientist and professor who has studied cannabis production and cannabis effects extensively.