Montgomery, Alabama – In a development that has caused ripples in Alabama’s medical marijuana market, a judge has ordered the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to temporarily halt the issuance of licenses to growers and distributors. This order comes in response to allegations raised by two companies, Alabama Always and Hornet Medicinals, who argue that the state used a flawed and secretive process to select winners for the highly sought-after licenses.
Last week, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission made the decision to pull back the licenses that were awarded on June 12th after discovering potential inconsistencies in the tabulation of scoring data. This decision has now been reinforced by Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson, who issued a temporary restraining order on top of the commission’s decision, further staying the licenses until the issue regarding the scoring data is resolved. Both the state and the companies have agreed to the stay.
It is worth noting that this is not the end of the legal battle. Anderson has scheduled a hearing in July to address the companies’ request for a preliminary injunction. During this hearing, the companies will argue that the entire selection process was flawed and that there were problems with how the licenses were awarded.
According to court filings, Alabama Always has expressed concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the selection process. They argue that the commission used anonymous graders hired by the University of South Alabama to score applications and then awarded the licenses without any further discussion. Speaking in court, William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, stated, “We think from day one that this process has been cloaked in secrecy.”
Alabama Always has also raised specific concerns about their score, particularly regarding their finances. The company claims to have already invested $4.5 million in a cultivation facility and has expressed readiness to open and stock stores with medical marijuana by January, if not sooner. To shed light on the scoring and selection process, Alabama Always is asking Judge Anderson to order the commission to provide additional information.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has acknowledged the issues with the scoring but has not provided specific details about the potential inconsistencies. “The stay is recommended due to the (commission’s) discovery of potential inconsistency in the tabulation of scoring data,” said Dr. Steven Stokes, an oncologist who chairs the commission, during last week’s meeting.
Alabama lawmakers had only recently approved the creation of a medical marijuana program in 2021, ending years of resistance. However, the program is yet to be made available to patients as the state is still in the process of developing rules and awarding grower and distributor licenses.
The outcome of this legal battle will not only determine the fate of the licenses for Alabama Always and Hornet Medicinals but could also have wider implications for the future of Alabama’s medical marijuana industry. As the July hearing approaches, stakeholders will be closely watching the proceedings to see how the court addresses these allegations of a flawed selection process.
This article is republished here with permission from The Associated Press.