Top Alabama Medical Marijuana Regulator Faces Lawsuit Seeking His Removal

“The statute says, if you’re a public official, and you can’t be a member of the commission, and as a member of the South Alabama Board of Trustees, he’s a public official.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

The chair of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) faces a lawsuit seeking his removal from the position.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Kimberly Holcomb alleges that Dr. Steven Stokes cannot serve on the AMCC because he was a trustee for the the University of South Alabama when he was appointed in July 2021.

The lawsuit cites state law prohibiting any AMCC member from being a “current public official.”

A message seeking comment was left on Wednesday with AMCC. USA did not have a representative to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

William Somerville, lead attorney in the petition, said in an interview Wednesday that Stokes has had a conflict of interest in his activities with the Commission.

“The statute says, if you’re a public official, and you can’t be a member of the commission, and as a member of the South Alabama Board of Trustees, he’s a public official,” Somerville said. “We think that’s very clear.”

Somerville said that Holcomb is “a regular citizen” and works for a law firm in Montgomery, but that she is “solely” acting out of her belief that this is in the best interest of the people of Alabama.

“She felt that the process was off track, wants to see the medication available to people in Alabama and thinks that there needs to be a change,” Somerville said.

The AMCC was set to award licenses to businesses that applied to participate in the state’s medical cannabis program in June. After AMCC announced which companies were awarded a license, those denied a license raised questions about the scoring transparency.

Less than a week after announcing the license winners, the commission announced a stay on the awarding of licenses, citing “scoring inconsistencies” that would have led to “catastrophic” results if the licenses were issued.

The University of South Alabama brought in evaluators who reviewed the initial license applications.

Following the stay by the commission, Alabama Always, one of the companies denied a license, filed a lawsuit and alleged that the commission violated the state law that legalized and set up a market for medical cannabis in 2019 when the agency denied its application for a license.

On Wednesday, the plaintiff in Dr. Stokes’s lawsuit moved to consolidate her case with the Alabama Always lawsuit. Somerville is the lawyer for both cases.

This story was first published by Alabama Reflector.

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