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Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission picks 5 companies for integrated licenses

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission prepares to vote on awarding licenses to integrated companies that will cultivate, process, transport, and dispense medical cannabis.(Mike Cason/al.com)





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The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission awarded integrated licenses to five companies to help start the state’s new medical marijuana industry Tuesday, voting to pick them out of 33 applicants.


The AMCC could award no more than five integrated licenses under the medical marijuana law the Legislature passed in 2021.


The integrated companies will cultivate, process, transport, and dispense medical cannabis.

Some steps remain over the next few weeks before that work begins. Although the licenses have been awarded, they are not scheduled to be issued until Jan. 9. Before that, the AMCC will receive license fees and conduct site inspections.


Commission Chair Rex Vaughn said he hoped that if there are no delays that medical cannabis products could be available by the spring of 2024.


“The next two weeks we’ll have investigative staff that will go and look at the facilities,” Vaughn said. “They’ll do on site inspections to make sure that the facility is up to par with what they’ve been portrayed to be so that they can move forward when we indeed issue the license at the end of December and into January.”


Companies that were awarded licenses today were Trulieve Alabama, Inc.; Sustainable Alabama, LLC; Wagon Trail Med-Serv LLC; Flowerwood Medical Cannabis, LLC; and Specialty Medical Products of Alabama, LLC.


Nine of the 12 voting members of the AMCC took part in Tuesday’s vote at the Alabama Statehouse. The AMCC had heard public presentations from the applicants last week.

Ray French, the CEO and a co-founder of Specialty Medical Products of Alabama, said his company already has experience producing gummies from CBD and is ready to begin making the new products. Specialty Medical Products was passed over on two previous rounds of license awards that the AMCC later withdrew.


“We’re so proud on behalf of the commission for taking the time to actually get to know the applicants and really consider this,” French said. “I’m so proud for all of our staff and employees and everybody that’s worked so hard. And also for the other people that were awarded. We’re looking forward to helping build an industry here in Alabama.”


French said Specialty Medical Products would have dispensaries in Montgomery, Troy, Opelika, Foley, and Bayou La Batre.


The law required the AMCC to award at least one of the five licenses to a company that is at least 51% minority-owned. Trulieve Alabama is the minority-owned company.


Alabama Always LLC, which has built a facility in Montgomery and has filed much of the litigation against the AMCC’s procedures, was not awarded a license.


“We’ll have to assess what happened and regroup and see what to do,” William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always said. The company has stressed for months that it is ready to begin cultivating cannabis almost immediately and has questioned whether other applicants are as well prepared.


The integrated licenses awarded Tuesday are one of six categories of licensees for the state’s new industry, authorized by legislation that passed in 2021.


On Dec. 1, the AMCC awarded licenses to a total of 20 companies in the five other categories: cultivators, processors, transporters, dispensaries, and testing labs.


The licenses awarded Dec. 1 and on Tuesday mark the third time the AMCC has awarded licenses. The AMCC rescinded awards it made in June and again in August because of problems with its procedures and lawsuits filed by the applicants.


“It’s a milestone for us,” AMCC Chairman Vaughn said. “Maybe the third time will be the charm. So, we’ll see how that goes. We’re getting tired of swinging. We want to hit the ball and get it in the outfield. And I think today maybe will get us that far.”


The AMCC made some changes in response to the litigation. The earlier license awards were announced after the AMCC met behind closed doors for hours. The meetings during the third round of awards have all be open to the public.


Also for the third round, the AMCC discarded scores from third-party evaluators that were used during the first two rounds of license awards.


Under new rules approved in October, the AMCC had each commissioner rank the applicants. The AMCC averaged the rankings to determine a composite ranking. That was then used to determine the order in which applicants would be considered for a nomination and a vote.


Because of the requirement that at least one licensee be a minority applicant, the commission voted to take nominations for minority applicants first. Southeast Cannabis Company, the highest ranking minority applicant, was nominated, but only four of the nine commissioners voted to award the company a license. Trulieve Alabama, the next highest ranked minority applicant, was then nominated and awarded a license on a 6-3 vote.


Any applicant denied a license has 14 days to request an investigative hearing by the AMCC.

“We think we have some quality applicants,” Vaughn said. “It was challenging for the commission to go through this process because you had so many really, really good ones to choose from. I myself had some top picks that did not make it to a vote. So, I’m somewhat disappointed for those. But I think that shows that we’ve got a team effort going as far as the commission. Each commission member has a role to play. Has a vote to cast. And that’s how our decisions were made today. And I’m very happy with the overall decisions that were made.”


Doctors can may begin the certification process to recommend medical cannabis to patients after business licenses have been issued. For a patient to qualify for medical cannabis, the patient must have at least one of the qualifying conditions and be recommended for medical cannabis by a certified physician.


Qualifying conditions include chronic pain, weight loss and nausea from cancer, depression, panic disorder, epilepsy, muscle spasms caused by disease or spinal cord injuries, PTSD, and others.

Products can include gummies, tablets, capsules, tinctures, patches, oils, and other forms allowed by the legislation.