Alabama Medical Marijuana Regulators Plan Third Round Of Licensing Amid Ongoing Legal Delays

“Certainly, it will be another delay for us, and we would choose not to if we had an option, but we’re trying to concur with the judge’s wishes.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) Thursday formally voted to delay granting licenses to growth, manufacture and production of medical cannabis.

AMCC Chair Rex Vaughn said the new stay, coming after a Montgomery judge extended a temporary restraining order on the process, will open the door to a third round of license awards.

“We’ve put a stay on our current list of licensees. So, if that list stays the same has yet to be seen,” he said. “But yes, we’ll have to come back and do that at another vote.”

During the meeting, Vaughn said that the current administrative stay will allow parties “to make an attempt to resolve issues prior to resuming the licensing process.”

During the current stay, applicants who were awarded a license are not obligated to pay a licensing fee. There will also not be a deadline for applicants denied a license to request an investigative hearing during the stay.

The new administrative stay will remain in effect indefinitely, Vaughn said.

“Certainly, it will be another delay for us, and we would choose not to if we had an option, but we’re trying to concur with the judge’s wishes,” he said.

Antoine Mordican, CEO of Native Black Cultivation, one of the companies denied a license in the initial evaluation, said Thursday he hoped the commission will investigate and look more closely at applications, and ask for clarity if anything is off in the next round.

Mordican said that his Alabama-based company, which produced hemp in the state and wants to move to medical cannabis, was flagged because of a “residency deficiency.”

“I’m trying to figure out how exactly they’re interpreting that because I can offer clarity on that,” Mordican said. “And that’s an easy, rectifiable situation amongst my ownership team.”

He said that his company is “100 percent Alabama-owned and [they] showed over 30 years of consecutive residency.”

The company cultivates cannabis that would be processed into therapeutics. He hoped that his company would have been the first African American-owned company to grow medical cannabis in Alabama.

Since most of the companies involved in the lawsuits are integrated facilities, which can produce medical cannabis products from seed to store shelves, Mordican hopes the commission will consider awarding licenses to, at least, cultivators. Allowing cultivators to get started on the process might not delay the process so much, he said.

“We could be looking at least four to eight months before we’re able to actually get a crop out,” he said.

It would take four months to get a harvest if the cultivators grow the plants from seedlings, but Mordican said cultivators should not have that yet. Growing a plant from seed can take about eight months, he said.

“Cultivators have a lot of work that we have to do to become operational, and if they issued those licenses to us, that will give us the leeway and the time to go ahead and get everything stood up,” he said.

The AMCC re-awarded licenses for the production and distribution of medical cannabis at the August 10 meeting, two months after stopping earlier awards amid questions about the evaluation of applications.

Alabama Always, which sued the commission last month over the appointment of former chair Steven Stokes, filed a lawsuit against the AMCC, alleging the commission violated the state’s open meetings law at its August 10 meeting. The company, which applied for but did not receive a license, alleged that commission members privately nominated companies for public votes on license awards during an executive session.

The lawsuit alleges that commission members were instructed to seal their nominations in an envelope during the executive session, and the companies with the most nominations received a public vote in the Aug. 10 meeting.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Anderson set a second preliminary hearing on the commission’s alleged Open Meetings Act violations for September 6.

If the judge finds that there was substantial evidence that the commission violated the law, a final hearing would be scheduled within 60 days.

This story was first published by the Alabama Reflector.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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