It’s been nearly a month since attorneys with the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) and attorneys representing certain license applicants last met at the Montgomery County Courthouse to find a path forward in implementing Alabama’s new medical cannabis industry.

The lawsuit brought by Alabama Always and other plaintiffs not awarded a cannabis license against the AMCC was ostensibly about Open Meetings Act Violations. Still, much of the discussion in and outside the courtroom has centered around whether the Commission will change course and award another round of licenses for a third time to a different set of companies. 

Since the last court hearing in early September, attorneys from AMCC and the Commission have been meeting in private to negotiate. 

William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, said in September, “There’s probably going to be a third round of awards. There’s a good hope that it’s going to be done differently than it’s been done before.”

“That’s something that we’ll discuss, I think. I can’t predict what’s going to happen. I felt very encouraged that everybody seems to have that as their objective,” Somerville told reporters after the court hearing in September.

The most recent planned AMCC meeting was canceled last month. The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 12, at 1 p.m.

“Productive dialogue between counsel for the AMCC and litigants continued Friday, September 15. However, those discussions have not yielded any business that the Commission needs to consider at this time. As such, the Commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 19, at 1:00 p.m. is canceled. This will allow all parties the opportunity to continue with ongoing discussions,” an announcement posted on AMCC’s site stated.

Some officials with the 24 companies awarded a license by AMCC in August aren’t thrilled about the possibility of further delays from negotiations, lawsuits and concessions to some applicants who scored relatively low on the AMCC’s evaluations.

Attorneys for Southeast Cannabis Company, a company awarded an integrated facility license by the AMCC, said in filings on Wednesday they were requesting a final order on the merits, if necessary, in the lawsuit on or before October 27, 2023.

“The public at large is being impacted by Plaintiffs’ baseless (Open Meetings Act) allegations and the resulting extended (Temporary Restraining Order) because the timeline for Alabamians to gain access to medical cannabis is being delayed in direct correlation. Further, 20+ entities that have been granted a license to operate medical cannabis businesses in Alabama are being delayed in obtaining the issuance of those licenses,” Matthew Jackson and Patrick Dungan, attorneys for Southeast Cannabis Company, said in filings on Wednesday.

Jackson and Dungan said, “Since the September 6 edition of the OMA Hearing, counsel for the Commission, Plaintiffs, and the several Intervenor-Plaintiffs and Intervenor-Defendants have met on multiple occasions to discuss a possible ‘path forward’ to avoid protracted litigation.”

“During such a meeting on September 15, 2023, although no commitment was made by representatives of the Commission to any proposed action, there was a clear demonstration of a willingness to consider demands by the Plaintiffs and Intervenor-Plaintiffs that the Commission ‘rescind’ or ‘void’ (i.e., revoke) the August 10, 2023 license awards and perform other acts that would damage and cause irreparable harm to SCC and other awarded applicants. This leaves SCC with no choice but to defend its interests in the license it was granted initially on June 12 and again on August 10 from any plan by the Commission to revoke said license at a future meeting—especially since there has been no indication that past or planned future revocations of SCC’s license have any basis in something that SCC itself has done or failed to do,” Jackson and Dungan said in the filing.

It continued: “During the September 15, 2023 attorney meeting, representatives of the Commission demonstrated a willingness to consider demands by the Plaintiffs and Intervenor-Plaintiffs that the Commission do the following: a. ‘Rescind’ or ‘void’ (i.e., revoke) the August 10, 2023, license awards; b. Allow applicants an opportunity to supplement their prior application filings with exhibits that were previously not submitted to the Commission prior to the application deadline; c. Provide a new 30-day period during which members of the public may submit written comments regarding applicants; d. Conduct an ‘interview or Q&A’ (i.e., a ‘dog and pony show’) session for each applicant requesting such opportunity; e. Perform ‘pre-award’ site inspections of the facilities of all applicants; and f. Completely discard the blind-scoring, tabulation, and ranking of applications that was conducted by anonymous evaluators engaged by the University of South Alabama and validated by KPMG, and require each Commissioner to independently evaluate each application without regard for the scoring data.”

The next hearing in the lawsuit is October 10 at Montgomery County Courthouse.

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