Alabama Judge Halts Medical Marijuana Licensing Amid Ongoing Litigation

“We thought that if we just sat around and let the time continue to run, we would lose our rights, or have to file an immediate appeal.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

Applicants denied a medical cannabis license will have to wait to appeal the decision by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC).

The Montgomery Circuit Court Friday issued a stay order on the appeals process for applicants denied a license by the AMCC after one of the companies, Alabama Always, filed a motion Thursday requesting the court enter a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on AMCC’s decision to delay the award of licenses.

The court reaffirmed the commission’s stay and allowed the AMCC an indefinite amount of time to evaluate scores and award the licenses.

The court, however, gave denied applicants 14 days from the day the licenses are awarded to begin the appeals process and discovery. This includes asking the other party to provide documents or information related to the case from the opposing party.

William Somerville, attorney for Alabama Always, said they were concerned that the commission didn’t choose the companies that won licenses properly, that they didn’t get proper notice of the emergency meeting and that the commission didn’t have the authority under its rules and regulations to issue a stay.

“We thought that if we just sat around and let the time continue to run, we would lose our rights, or have to file an immediate appeal,” he said. “So, we’re happy that the judge agreed to do that.”

Alabama Always alleged that AMCC violated the state law passed in 2019 that legalized and set up a market for medical cannabis when the agency denied its application for a license.

The company also alleged AMCC violated its own rules by delegating “its nondelegable duty to exercise its own judgment to make licensure decisions,” according to the complaint, and that the commission intends to “continue this improper delegation of its authority by engaging another third-party” to evaluate the tabulation of scores.

Alabama Always claimed that without a restraining order from the Court, it will suffer irreparable harm from the “improper denial” of an integrated facility license.

William Webster, an attorney representing AMCC, agreed with the Court’s stay and said during the hearing that the commission might not have to recalculate the scores, but possibly void them.

“I think the commission is going to have to come back together, with a judge, to void the order that was entered—to the extent that it needs to be voided—based on what we found out in the score,” Webster said.

Integrated facilities are multimillion dollar operations that provide medical cannabis products from seed to shelf. Alabama Always claims that it would be ready to start production within 60 days from receiving a license, and they disagree with the tabulation of scores that put them behind companies they feel are not as prepared.

Arch Lee, a lobbyist for Alabama Always, said that they have experienced people on the team and have done this in other states, like Florida.

“We have a facility—state-of-the-art facility—that is well on the way of being completed and certainly feel that we can meet the guidelines that were set forth in the rules and regs,” he said.

The plaintiffs also argued that most decisions by the AMCC were made in secrecy, and Somerville said that his client does not believe he saw a vote take place during the open meeting. He said that is “substantial evidence” that the law has been violated by the commission making decisions during executive sessions. He also said they don’t know who the graders are or what criteria they followed.

“This process has been cloaked in secrecy,” Somerville said during the hearing.

The AMCC will hold its next meeting on June 29 at 1 p.m. in Montgomery.

This story was first published by Alabama Reflector.

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