MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) awarded 24 new licenses on Thursday.

The AMCC initially awarded 21 licenses in June. Shortly after the licenses were announced, the commission put a stay on proceedings due to discoveries by commission staff of "potential inconsistencies in the tabulation of scoring data." The commission also suspended the issuance of previously awarded licenses.

The vast majority of the new licenses awarded on Thursday were to the same companies that received licenses in June. 

"Formulating the application process, assessing all 90 applications, and making determinations on who to award licenses to has been a monumental task," AMCC Vice Chairman Dr. Sam Blakemore said. "We received numerous applications from applicants who would make terrific licensees, which made the selection process extremely competitive. I have spent countless hours reviewing the applications myself and feel confident that we have selected a great slate of licensees."

The annual license fees range from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the type.

Verano Alabama, LLC was the only company initially awarded an integrated facility license in June that didn't get a license on Thursday. 

A Verano spokesperson told 1819 News, "We are extremely disappointed and frustrated that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has denied Verano as a license winner." 

"After the initial round of application winners were announced in June, Verano was rightly awarded a vertical Integrated Facilities License after receiving the highest score of any applicant across the entire pool, which makes this decision appear random, confusing and without merit," the Verano spokesperson said. "This arbitrary and capricious action by the commission denies the state and its prospective medical patients access to a well-capitalized applicant, and the company will pursue all options to defend our rightfully earned Integrated Facilities License, including legal remedies. Our meticulous and detailed application spoke for itself and demonstrated Verano's experience and strong track record operating best-in-class retail and cultivation facilities in 13 states."

Oliver Washington IV, CEO of Southeast Cannabis Company, said, "As one of only two minority firms selected by the commission, we are grateful to have been awarded an integrated facility license at today's meeting." 

"As a fourth-generation African American farmer from Theodore Alabama I could not be more proud of the opportunity our group has been afforded today," Washington said. "Alabama put forth a most rigorous competition seeking expert review from independent firms and universities. Having been selected in both the initial award and today in the second review we have hope that we can now move the focus to operations and serving the patients. The families in Alabama who need these treatments are the ones losing out in the delayed process."

Other changes in the license awards list from June to Thursday were three additional cultivator licenses given to I AM FARMS, Greenway Botanicals, and CRC of Alabama. 

XLCR Inc. received a secure transport license on Thursday, even though the commission left it out in June. Alabama Secure Transport, LLC initially received a secure transport license in June but didn't receive a license on Thursday.

Jim Barton, a principal at the Barton & Kinney governmental affairs firm representing a group called the Alabama Medical Cannabis Consortium, made up of "many of the newly awarded licensees in Alabama," said, "We applaud the efforts of the commission today."

"The additional review by the independent auditors KPMG along with procedural changes by the board delivered what should be a respected decision. There will of course be those who are disappointed because they didn't win. Everyone knew there would be losers because there were more applicants than there were licenses. And of course, there will be litigation because among those who lost there are deep pockets," Barton said. "Ultimately, we need to bring closure to this portion of the process and move towards verifying the ability of the awardees to deliver on what they have promised. In this next stage, the new licensees must show their ability to deliver on their commitments. We need to see this next step completed so that we can determine if there will be new vacancies among the segments to which other applicants could fill the void. From there the legislature will return in 2024 and if they have the ability to expand licenses if they feel the process wasn't perfect or there are additional needs. Since 2021, Alabama has been ready to provide medicine already available in 38 other states including all of those bordering Alabama. There are patients in Alabama today who have no access to these treatments. We call on the unsuccessful applicants to withdraw their delaying challenges and remember the patients we were all ascribing to serve. The commission today completed the initial step, and we need to let the process continue to move forward and allow the legislature the ability to make changes if they see fit."

AMCC Chairman Rex Vaughn told reporters on Thursday, "Hopefully before we see 2024 we will have something made available that's coming out in the dispensaries across our state."

"I think it's still realistic that we can get there, but that also depends on litigation that we may have in front of us, and we can't foresee that," Vaughn said. "Right now, we have the green light to move forward and we're very thankful that we had today to regroup. That's what we've done today is regroup from where we were two months ago. I think we're in a good place."

An AMCC spokesperson said in a statement the commission "intends to open a second offering of licenses for various license categories" but didn't give an exact date on when that might happen.

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings attorneys Whitt Steineker and Mason Kruse said in a blog post on Tuesday after a Montgomery County Circuit Court hearing on a lawsuit against the AMCC that the "court remains extremely disinclined to do anything to stop the commission from undertaking its duties under the law as the commission interprets the law."

"That means the court is giving the commission all of the rope it needs," Steineker and Kruse said in the blog post on Tuesday. "And it all but assures that we will be back in court shortly after any award of licenses, and at that time the court will be asked to address the myriad questions posed by litigants that the court has deferred until that time. In other words, we are likely to have an old-fashioned Royal Rumble on our hands in the coming weeks."

Steineker told 1819 News on Tuesday Bradley Arant Boult Cummings has clients pursuing licenses. 

A full list of the companies awarded licenses can be found here.

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