MONTGOMERY — Most of the members of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) decided on Monday to continue with the same evaluation procedures to award business licenses despite some disagreement and pushback from a few members.

AMCC officials said at the commission meeting on Monday afternoon they'd contracted with Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG), an auditing firm, to review the numbers the commission used to rank businesses for licensing awards. They also said they hoped to re-award licenses at their next meeting on August 10 after correcting scoring errors made previously.

Licenses were previously awarded last month. 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. Three cannabis companies that didn't receive licenses from the commission in June are currently suing AMCC. 

"I was talking to (AMCC member) Dr. (Angela) Martin this morning. You've got to love the pediatricians. They're probably the most compassionate people I know," AMCC Chairman Dr. Steven Stokes said at the meeting. "You have to be a compassionate person to be a pediatrician. She said, 'I feel sorry for the individual who started working on this facility in Montgomery.' I said, 'Well, he didn't have a license. He should've waited.' If you want to feel sorry for someone, feel sorry for the patients in Alabama that are still waiting, that are having to go out of the state to get the stuff that they need to improve the quality of their life. Let's feel sorry for them and let's keep the process going and try to stay on schedule as best we can."

AMCC Director John McMillan said at the meeting he hoped KMPG would finish their "re-verification" work by the end of July.

"We adopted a process that we know to be fair. We wanted it to be just as non-political. In fact, that was our mandate from the legislature to keep politics out of this as much as possible and I'm not naive enough to think that that's totally possible. But at the same time I want to thank those of you who abided by, and that's way up in the 90-odd%, a rule and a request that you not be involved with contacting commission members and trying to influence this process. It's largely been effective," McMillan said at the meeting. "After the June license awards, we immediately at the staff level realized there were some things that just didn't add up. Instead of trying to cover that up, which would've been mighty easy. I think we probably would've gotten away with it. We knew it was not the right thing to do. We knew the right thing to do was to admit the problems and then go about fixing the problems and that was united in everybody that's a part of this team including the University of South Alabama. So we set out to do that."

KPMG was retained to re-verify the numbers and statistics we've used to score the process.

William Webster, AMCC legal counsel, told commissioners on Monday the plan going forward would be to "void old results and then enter a new set of results and vote for new licenses awarded in each category and that would take place on August 10." 

"We are not certain right now how many of those will be impacted. We're waiting to hear back from KPMG. Hopefully, by that time by August 10, we'll have all of that information in hand. As of that time, we should be able then to vote based on the correct, accurate information that's been provided through that scoring process," Webster said. "We do not have any evidence at this time that there was any impropriety or incompetence in the way the applications were evaluated by the team that was selected by (the University of South Alabama). The only problem that we're aware of which we're fixing is the ones relating to math inconsistencies that have been located that we're getting KPMG to confirm and rectify and then hopefully tell us how we can do this next time so we don't have these kinds of problems."

A couple of motions involving more oversight of the scoring and evaluating process by commission members didn't garner enough support to pass. 

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. USA utilized 66 evaluators with experience relevant to the application content to review one of eight scoring categories: (1) Financial Ability; (2) Business/Management Approach; (3) Operations Plans & Procedures; (4) Facility Suitability & Infrastructure; (5) Security Plan; (6) Personnel; (7) Quality Control & Testing; or (8) Marketing & Advertising. Each scored exhibit was independently reviewed by two evaluators to assess the applicant's solvency, stability, suitability, capability, projected efficiency, and experience, both in relation to any baseline set by the Commission, as well as in comparison with other applicants.

AMCC Commissioner Loree Skelton said, "as a commissioner, I have not been given the opportunity to make informed consent and knowing decisions on the matters that have been put before me to vote."

"We got pieces of papers with numbers and percentages and conclusions and rankings that told us what these evaluators had come up with and what the total numbers were and we got it first thing Monday morning the same day we're supposed to try to review everything and come to a decision," Skelton said. "I'd previously raised issues and questions about how are we supposed to be able to review and analyze what the evaluators have come up with and then combine it with our review and then make a decision as to the most appropriate applicants. That opportunity was not afforded to me. Nor was it afforded to the other commission members. The information that we were given gave us no criteria whatsoever as to where their numbers came from. We saw no analysis. We saw no summaries of what their numbers came from. It was combined numbers of what their points were and what our points were and how that added up to the rankings that came out. Now, we already know that process is flawed. We've already admitted that. It's a fundamental problem. It's a core problem. It is not an adding and subtracting problem."

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

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