The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) will decide at a Thursday meeting whether to rescind all previously-awarded cannabis business licenses.
The AMCC could decide to rescind every license awarded in August or rescind licenses in categories with more applicants than licenses available. There are five types of licenses: integrated facility, cultivator, processor, dispensary, secure transporter, and state testing laboratory.
AMCC is currently barred from taking some actions due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) being placed on them in Montgomery County Circuit Court from a lawsuit brought by companies who haven't successfully obtained a license in the previous two stalled rounds of license awards.
Brittany Peters, an AMCC spokeswoman, told 1819 News last week, "The Commission's attorneys sought the Court's guidance as to what actions the Commission is permitted to take without violating the Court's current TRO."
"As a hypothetical, attorneys for the Commission suggested that the Commission may consider not rescinding prior license awards in those categories where there is no limit on the number of licenses that may be awarded (secure transporters and state testing laboratory) or where the number of applicants does not exceed the limit (cultivator). The Court agreed to consider a modification of its current TRO to allow such action. This is not to assume that the Commission will take any particular action, but the attorneys erred on the side of full transparency so as to ensure that the Commission's actions will not violate the Court's order," Peters said.
Will Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, an unsuccessful integrated facility license applicant for the first two rounds of awards currently suing the Commission, said in a filing on Tuesday that integrated facility applicants would be prejudiced by allowing cultivators and secure transporters to proceed into the market in advance of integrated facilities. The five integrated facility licenses are the most sought-after because they allow companies to cultivate, process, dispense, transport, and sell medical cannabis.
Somerville also sent a letter to AMCC members on Tuesday urging them not to use a scoring system for the next round of awards used for the two previous rounds.
"We therefore urge the Commission to reject using the scores. If the scores remain, or if they are considered in any way, the scores will be used by applicants who are not awarded a license to attack the award winners," Somerville said in the letter. "The reality is that this process will, regrettably, be subject to unending litigation if the Commission continues to use the scores. Finally, please note that, in the spirit of compromise, we made some suggestions on how to get the application process back on track to the Commissioner's counsel over a month ago. We never heard back. Also, as I am sure you are aware, the Commissioners have each been sued for violating the Open Meetings Act. We told the Commissioner's counsel that we have no interest in having the Commissioners fined, but we do have an interest in making sure this process proceeds according to the law. To be quite clear, we will continue our efforts to make that happen and remain hopeful that, through open dialogue (like this letter) and your continued hard work, we can ensure that this process proceeds according to the law."
Some officials representing companies that did receive a license on the first two rounds of awards have said complaints about the AMCC's evaluation process are just the result of their low scores compared to other applicants.
Oliver Washington IV, CEO of Southeast Cannabis Company, a successful integrated facility applicant in the first two rounds of awards, told 1819 News, "We applaud the Commission's effort to get some part of the cannabis process moving ahead for patients. The Commission's recommendation to allow the uncontested licenses of growers, labs and transporters to move forward is very reasonable and serves the best interests of Alabama's citizens."
"It is disappointing that Alabama Always continues to object to any alternative that does not all but guarantee them a license, even at the expense of Alabama's citizens. While we all have our options in protecting our own rights, there are ways in which we can do this without penalizing the patients in need," Washington said. "Unfortunately, Alabama Always is singularly focused on delaying and overturning this process because they did not win in the prior rounds and have no interest in the greater needs of patients. We are not a member of any of those license categories that the Commission is recommending to move forward, and neither is Alabama Always. We have no objections to this part of the Commission's plan, and we hope that the other awardees with pending claims would agree and support the state Commission's efforts on this matter."
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