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MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission is aiming to award licenses to growers and distributors by the end of the year after a bumpy roll out of the state's medical marijuana program that has included multiple lawsuits over the selection process.
The commission on Thursday adopted an emergency rule approving a new process for selecting license winners. Companies will make presentations to the commission. Commissioners can also consider scores that were previously awarded to submitted applications.
“It kind of is a reset. We think we have a process to move forward, not ditching what we've already done, but making use of it as best as possible,” Commission Chairman Rex Vaughn said after the end of the meeting. The timeframe for selecting license winners will depend on ongoing litigation with applicants, but Vaughn said they hope that they have addressed concerns and awards can be made by the end of the year.
Medical marijuana remains unavailable in Alabama more than two years after state lawmakers approved the creation of a program to allow marijuana to be used for certain medical conditions. The state had to develop rules and and attempts to award the licenses have been bogged down in lawsuits.
Losing companies have accused commissioners of using a flawed selection process that failed to consider how quickly a company could begin producing marijuana and also of improperly deliberating in private before selecting the winning companies for the lucrative licenses.
Will Somerville, a lawyer representing Alabama Always, said he believes the new process is a step in the right direction that will allow the company to make a presentation to commissioners. He said the previous license awards were made on “how pretty is your application and not whether you can really do it.”
“It will allow us to explain why we can commence cultivation faster than anybody else,” Somerville said.
The slow rollout of the state's medical marijuana program has been a source of frustration for patients like Amanda Taylor who has multiple sclerosis. Taylor, who previously lived in Arizona, said marijuana can ease the spasms and pain brought on by multiple sclerosis, but it is unavailable in Alabama.
“It's vital for patients like myself, who are suffering,” Taylor, 49, said. “It's not about getting high. It's about healing.”