It’s illegal for Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) chairman Dr. Steven Stokes to serve both on the commission and on the board of trustees of the University of South Alabama (USA), according to a legal filing by an attorney representing a cannabis company that didn’t initially receive a business license from the commission in June.

According to the legal filing in Montgomery County Circuit Court by plaintiff Kimberly Holcomb on Tuesday, the law creating the AMCC prohibits any commissioner from also being a “public official." Holcomb has asked for Stokes to be removed from the AMCC.

“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.”

Somerville is also an attorney representing Alabama Always, a medical cannabis company, in a separate lawsuit against AMCC. 

Somerville asked the court for a hearing before the AMCC’s next meeting on August 10 on whether Stokes’s spot on the commission while serving on the board of trustees of USA is legal. 

A spokesperson for the AMCC declined to comment on Thursday.

According to a news release sent out by the commission in June announcing the initial license awards, the USA 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.

Licenses were previously awarded by the commission 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. Multiple cannabis companies including Alabama Always that didn't receive licenses from the commission in June are currently suing AMCC. 

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