Cullman City Council introduces zoning ordinance amendment for vape shops

Signs advertising cannabis products could soon disappear from store windows in the city of Cullman. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman City Council on Monday, April 8, held the first reading of an amendment to the City’s zoning ordinance to govern the location and signage of vape retailers. The ordinance, to be voted on at the next council meeting, would limit the locations where new shops can be built (already established shops could continue to operate in their present locations), and would remove flashy, attention-getting signs even from established dealers.

According to the proposed update, a tobacco, vape, CBD or THC shop is “any retail premises whose primary purpose is dedicated to the display, sale, storage of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes (a product containing or delivering nicotine, or any other substance intended for human consumption that can be used by a person to simulate smoking through inhalation of vapor or aerosol from the product including, but not limited to, “vapes”), CBD products (products made from CBD containing less than 0.2% THC), and/or THC products (including Delta-8 and Delta-9 products that come from the cannabis sativa plant which are subject to Federal, State and local guidelines and laws).”

Grocery stores and pharmacies are exempted from the definition.

Signage limited

A response to local residents’ complaints about stores in town placing tall feather banners in city rights of way alongside streets and displaying large signs featuring cannabis leaves and similar drug-related themes, the proposed update would limit the use of such signage and authorize the City to remove signs when necessary.

The current ordinance’s phrase “Signs and advertising related to alcoholic beverages” would be modified to read “Signs and advertising related to alcoholic beverages, vaping, tobacco, e-cigarettes, CBD, THC and medical cannabis” with the following regulation:

“It shall be unlawful for any person who owns or operates a place where vape products, tobacco, e-cigarettes, CBD, THC (including but not limited to CBD products, Delta-8 and Delta-9) or medical cannabis are sold to display any feather flags, banners, signs or electronic signage (including, but not limited to neon signs, LED signs, digital displays, interactive displays, mobile displays, etc.,) containing the English name, brand name, illustration/image or any phonetic spelling or misspelling of an English name for vape products, tobacco, e-cigarettes, CBD, THC or medical cannabis outside any place of business or in any window or door visible from the outside of the business. For the purposes of this chapter, any sign attached directly to any part of a window or its surroundings (including windows integrated into doors) or any sign placed within 36 inches of the window with its content visible from the outside shall be considered to be in the window. No LED or electronic lighting affixed to the building, doors) or window(s) shall be permitted if it is deemed by the Building Official to create a danger to or interfere/impeded [sic.] the flow of traffic; or if it is deemed to be a nuisance.”

While established businesses would be “grandfathered” and protected from the location restrictions, City Attorney Luke Satterfield told The Tribune that the signage regulations would apply also to those established businesses.

The city council can vote on the ordinance at its next meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 22, 2024, at Cullman City Hall.

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