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Cannabis Commission stands behind process as court date looms

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission stood firm Thursday in its commitment to the 20 companies it awarded licenses to in December for the right to grow and sell medical marijuana, unanimously voting against a self-imposed pause on the issuance of licenses during a meeting in Montgomery.

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The use of medical marijuana products in Alabama was first legalized in 2021 through a bill that established the AMCC, which in June of last year, awarded licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana to 21 companies

While medical marijuana products were initially anticipated to become available as soon as late 2023, but errors in the commission’s licensee selection process and then a flurry of lawsuits from companies that had not been selected. 

Now, a timeline for the rollout of products is still uncertain as lawsuits against the AMCC continue to be litigated in court.

Most recently, the AMCC’s legal team had asked a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge this week to dismiss all cases against the commission. Judge James Anderson set a deadline of April 1 for plaintiffs to file their own motions in response.

Ahead of this impending court date, the AMCC held its own meeting to discuss several items, two of which would be to impose a stay on the issuance of licenses in two categories;

dispensaries and integrated facilities, the latter being the most sought-after and contested of the licenses.

Loree Skelton, commission member and health care lawyer, argued that enacting a self-imposed pause on issuing licenses could send the wrong message, not only to Alabamians, but to the companies it had most recently awarded licenses.

“In December, the commission made a public declaration of our intent to send a message that we would not impose a stay, and a message that we didn’t do anything wrong,” Skelton said. 

Members of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission meet March 14 in Montgomery.

Skelton was referring to how the commission had issued self-imposed stays in the past after its first two attempts to award licenses, stays that were imposed to address transparency and scoring issue concerns in the award process. 

Its third and latest awarding of licenses, Skelton argued, were not made with any apparent flaws in the process, and should be supported.

“When the court has already got us under a (temporary restraining order), it seems counterproductive for us to issue our own,” she continued. “At the same time, we were in court on Monday objecting to a TRO.”

Pharmacist and commission member Sam Blakemore echoed Skelton’s statements, and argued that the commission should stand behind its decision made in December.

“I don’t want this to signal that we think we did something wrong in December; previously when we did stays, we were essentially telling the public that we’re going to redo these licenses,” Blakemore said.

“I just want it on record that the slate of candidates that we had in December, I really appreciate those guys, I think they’ll do a good job.”

Commission Chair Rex Vaughn agreed, and the AMCC ultimately voted unanimously to table the proposal to pause the issuance of licenses.

Following the meeting, Blakemore told Alabama Daily News that beyond not wanting to delay the rollout of medical marijuana any further, he wanted to communicate to the 20 companies that had been awarded licenses in December that the commission still held confidence in its decision.

“I don’t want to lose those guys because those are the guys that we’re going to need to make this medicine,” Blakemore told ADN.

Plaintiffs in the ongoing cases against the AMCC will have until April 1 to respond to the commission’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits. The AMCC will then have until April 15 to respond to the plaintiffs’ response.

Vaughn has previously estimated that products could become available to patients roughly three months after licenses are actually issued, factoring in the time it would take for companies to grow, produce and cultivate medical marijuana. 


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