The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has departed from the objective licensing system it used to score license applicants and now finds itself in an "endless loop of licensing" do-overs, according to a letter sent to Gov. Kay Ivey from Verano CEO George Archos on Thursday.

Verano Alabama, LLC, the only company initially awarded an integrated facility license in June that didn't get a license the second time around in August, filed a lawsuit against AMCC in Montgomery County Circuit Court recently and asked the court to reverse the commission's decision in August to void Verano's awarded license. Verano Alabama is a venture of the multi-state cannabis company Verano Holdings.

Verano Alabama received the highest applicant scores on evaluations for integrated facilities in June and August. Every other applicant with the highest score in other license categories, such as cultivator, secure transporter, dispensary, processor, and state testing lab, was awarded a license at the August meeting.   The annual license fees range from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the type.

"Several years ago, the Alabama legislature learned from the experience of other states in developing Alabama's cannabis program. They crafted a series of fair, objective, third-party, and blind scoring metrics and established administrative procedures to ensure licenses were awarded to best-in-class operators," Archos said in a letter." Officials designed the system to keep politics and personal preferences out of the licensing process. Alabama's cannabis patients stood to benefit from the state partnering with organizations with a proven track record of patient and public safety, the financial capabilities to deliver, and the ability to operate in a complex and highly regulated industry."

Archos said, "As the founder and CEO of Verano—one of the nation's leading cannabis companies by size, revenue, and industry experience—you can imagine the enthusiasm my team and I shared in June when we earned the top score and were awarded a license."

"Immediately, we rolled up our sleeves and began the work to invest at least $40 million into communities across the state. Imagine our surprise weeks later when the Commission sought to ‘void’ its June proceedings, deliberate behind closed doors, and change the result by casting aside the objective licensing system Alabama's elected representatives created," Archos added.

AMCC vice chairman and Pharmacist Dr. Sam Blakemore said after the commission's meeting on August 10 in a statement, "We received numerous applications from applicants who would make terrific licensees, which made the selection process extremely competitive."

"I have spent countless hours reviewing the applications myself and feel confident that we have selected a great slate of licensees," Blakemore added. 

A Verano spokesperson told 1819 News on Friday, "The Commission's objective, third-party consultants blindly reviewed and scored all applications. Verano Alabama received the highest score in June based on that process."

"The Commission then stayed all proceedings because they discovered a purported ‘tabulation error’ in the scoring. They spoke at length about what those errors were during their August public meeting. They hired another objective, third-party consultant (KPMG) to review the scores. After fixing the tabulation errors, Verano Alabama remained the highest scoring application when the updated results were in August," the spokesperson continued.

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