Marijuana licenses expected to be awarded on Thursday

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The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) will meet on Thursday. On the proposed agenda for Thursday’s meeting will be awarding medical cannabis licenses. The AMCC previously awarded licenses to a number of entities in June. Days later, the Commission suspended those license awards after errors were found in the scoring of some of the applications.

On Monday, Montgomery Judge James Anderson ruled that the AMCC could proceed with discussions on license applicants at their August 10 meeting, provided that the Commission abides by the Alabama Open Meetings Act. The temporary restraining order that Judge Anderson previously issued staying the licensing process will expire once the Commission announces the award of licenses on August 10.

Some applicants who were denied licenses sued the Commission, and that lawsuit is proceeding. Those plaintiffs will be closely monitoring what the AMCC does on Thursday, as that directly impacts how they proceed with their litigation.

The AMCC is expected to award licenses for cultivators, processors, laboratories, transporters, dispensaries, and integrated facilities. The integrator license was the license that was most in demand by applicants. Applicants were not allowed to apply in multiple categories.

Chey Garrigan is the founder and CEO of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA).

“We are confident that the Commission has resolved the scoring issues, and we look forward to working with all of the licensees as we build the medical cannabis industry into a new vibrant sector of the Alabama economy,” Garrigan said.

The Commission will also have to select a new chair. Rex Vaughn, whose expertise is in agriculture, is the vice chair and is expected to be appointed as the new chairman.

Former Chairman Dr. Steven Stokes resigned after receiving criticism for serving as both the Chair of the AMCC and serving on the board of the University of South Alabama. The University of South Alabama (USA) was tasked with evaluating and scoring the applications. According to some reports, USA may have made some errors in tabulating those scores leading to the suspension of the license awards.

Stokes is a Dothan-based oncologist who has treated cancer patients both in Alabama, where cannabis is not a legal option, and Florida, which has had medical cannabis for years. Stokes played a key role in the 2019 Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission that drafted the bill that eventually became Alabama’s medical cannabis law that passed in 2021.

That legislation created the AMCC and tasked it with writing the rules for creating legal, medical cannabis in Alabama and regulating the fledging Alabama medical cannabis industry.

Since marijuana is presently illegal in Alabama, all of the infrastructure for the cannabis industry has to be built, the first crop grown from seed, that crop processed into an AMCC-approved form, and that product transported to the new dispensaries before any medical cannabis is sold to any patients. Possession of cannabis in its raw plant form, including seeds and plants, will remain illegal in Alabama unless you are licensed by the AMCC. No smokable products will be legally sold in the state.

There will likely be more litigation even after the Commission makes its license awards on Thursday.

The first legal Alabama-grown and processed medical cannabis will likely not be available until early 2024 – at the earliest.

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