The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission voted to award a contract to Metric to provide seed to sales tracking services after a lengthy debate during which one member denounced the lack of information that the Commission staff has shared with the commissioners about the decision-making process.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission met in Montgomery for its regularly scheduled July meeting. During the meeting, the commission voted to award the state contract to provide seed to sales tracking to Metric – an out-of-state company that provides similar services to 15 other states.
As Chairman Dr. Steven Stokes was away traveling, Vice Chairman Rex Vaughn presided over the meeting.
“We have a major item to consider,” Vaughn said. “That is voting on a contract for a seed-to-sale tracking system. This software will allow us to track cannabis through its entire life cycle from seed to sale.”
The staff recommended that the contract be awarded to Metric.
“Is Metric an Alabama business?” said Commissioner Charles Price. “The statute requires that those to be licensed be Alabama companies. We should give preference to Alabama companies on our other contracts.”
Commission Staff member Britney Taylor replied, “We accepted proposals for over a month and no Alabama companies applied.”
“If Alabama companies had an opportunity to respond and they did not respond then OK,” Price said.
John McMillan is the executive director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
“We have other opportunities where Alabama companies will be able to compete and dominate,” McMillan said.
“I have serious concerns,” said Commissioner Loree Skelton. “I do not have sufficient information available to me after several requests. The members are entitled to sufficient information to make a vote on a recommendation.”
Skelton specifically was objecting to the Commissioners not being granted any information about the persons that the staff consulted with in order to make the recommendation that Metric receive the contract.
“We cannot roll them out to the public because we might want to use them again,” McMillan said. “Companies might be embarrassed if their involvement was made public. Metric was the overwhelming choice of the evaluators. They are the superior company. There is a limit to what we can lay out before the public.”
“To me, that raises more concerns about the propriety of the proposal,” Skelton said. “I have requested additional evidence to get to this point. In order to vote and do my job responsibly, I need more information.”
“I make a motion that we carry it over until we get the information that we have requested,” Skelton said.
Commissioner Dr. Sam Blakemore said, “Metric is by far one of the best companies in the country regarding seed-to-sale tracking.”
Skelton said that the evaluators of the contract proposals should be made available to the commissioners voting on whether or not to accept their recommendation.
“That is not the way it is done with state agencies,” McMillan said. “If you don’t like it you are free to vote no.”
“Who made the recommendation to select Metric?” Price said.
“Every one of us sitting on this commission [has] a duty to the public to make well-informed decisions,” Skelton said. “Recommendations from people that we don’t know who they are or what criteria they used in making their recommendation is not acceptable. I don’t believe there should be anonymity.”
“We want this to be out of the public eye as much as possible,” Taylor said. “I made a commitment to them that they would remain anonymous. It is a perfectly common practice that companies making these recommendations be made anonymous.
“They all agreed it was unanimous. We met on July 6. They (Metric) scored the highest in every category.”
Taylor said that the contract would be for three years with two renewable years.
“They provided the most cost-effective option for us as well,” Taylor said.
A commissioner asked how many states use Metric.
“Fifteen and they have a 100% renewal rate,” Taylor answered.
“It is not appropriate to make decisions based on the recommendation of mysterious evaluators,” Skelton said.
“Y’all hired the staff and gave us [the] responsibility to make these decisions. If you are going to have problems with this, you need to make other arrangements,” McMillan said angrily.
“I have complete confidence in the staff,” Commissioner Dwight Gamble said. “This is just the next step in this process. The next step is to negotiate a contract with Metric.”
“If it has been established that this is the protocol, whether it is good protocol or bad protocol, that is the protocol,” Price said.
“I think our staff has done the work that we asked them to do,” Vaughn said.
The Commission voted to contract with Metric to provide the seed to sales tracking system.
Skelton was the lone dissenting vote.
“Our timeline is extremely tight we are not allowing any additional timeline,” Vaughn said.
Following the adjournment of the Commission meeting, the commissioners held a public comment period where interested parties were allowed to offer their comments on the Commission’s proposed rules and regulations. The public comment period ends on August 5 and the Commission will vote to adopt the rules and regulations in its August meeting. Persons wishing to apply for medical cannabis grow, process, transporting, dispensary, and integrated licenses can begin submitting their applications on Sept. 1.
Alabama will be the 38th state to allow the sale of medical marijuana (at some point in 2023) once the licenses are awarded and the new producers are up and operational.
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