Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission chairman Dr. Steven Stokes is resigning about a week after a lawsuit questioned whether he was legally allowed to serve simultaneously on both the commission and the University of South Alabama board of trustees.

Stokes said last week he had no plans to resign from the commission.

After conferring with legal experts and others, Stokes concluded this week that remaining on the commission could delay further medical marijuana availability, according to WTVY.

"Today we received Dr. Steven Stokes’ resignation from the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission," an AMCC spokeswoman told 1819 News on Thursday. "Dr. Stokes has a genuine desire to see medical cannabis products available to patients in Alabama. This is evidenced by his invaluable service as Chairman of the Commission and his role as Vice-Chair of Alabama’s Medical Cannabis Study Commission. We greatly appreciate Dr. Stokes’ contribution to the Commission and anticipate that he will remain at the forefront of the development of Alabama’s medical cannabis program."

The AMCC is scheduled to meet on August 10 to re-award business licenses. The commission previously awarded 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.

According to a legal filing by plaintiff Kimberly Holcomb last week, the law creating the AMCC prohibits any commissioner from also being a "public official," and thus, Stokes' appointment should be declared illegal and void.

"As a trustee of USA, Dr. Stokes is a 'public official' that cannot serve as a commission member under the Act," William Somerville, Holcomb's attorney, said in the filing. 

A "public official" under Alabama law is defined as "any person elected to public office, whether or not that person has taken office, by the vote of the people at state, county, or municipal level of government or their instrumentalities, including governmental corporations, and any person appointed to a position at the state, county, or municipal level of government or their instrumentalities, including governmental corporations."

State university board of trustees members in Alabama are appointed by the Governor.

Somerville told 1819 News on Thursday, "We have always believed the medical cannabis license process should be open and transparent." 

"Unfortunately, that has not been the case and there have been apparent conflicts of interest and closed-door meetings shrouded in secrecy that have hampered this process from the very beginning," he added. "We applaud Dr. Stokes for his decision to follow the clear law of the state of Alabama and step down as a member of the Commission. We and other applicants, who followed the application process to the letter, just want the commission to do what is right – follow the law, adhere to the rules and regulations of the selection process and give each and every application a thorough and comprehensive review. We are confident, as this process moves forward, that the commission will do the right thing for all applicants and follow the law as intended.”

According to a news release sent out by the commission in June announcing the initial license awards, the University of South Alabama was engaged by AMCC to coordinate the application review process and recruit evaluators to assess the scored exhibit items for all 90 applicants.

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