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Alabama Medical Marijuana Grower Nears First Harvest, But Litigation Is Still Blocking Patient Access



“We do have cultivators who are preparing to harvest their first crops, and they are faced with the uncertainty of when that product can be sold to patients.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

One grower is nearing the first medical cannabis harvest in Alabama despite ongoing delays in the state’s licensing process.

Antoine Mordican, CEO of Native Black Cultivation and a medical cannabis cultivation license holder, said he would like to get product into the market, but he doesn’t think that will be feasible unless a restraining order on dispensaries is lifted.

“My goal is to go ahead and get everything harvested, dry store it, get it tested, so I can know and understand the quality of the flower product that I do have, and just keep moving forward, keep expanding, keep growing,” Mordican said.

Medical cannabis suppliers have yet to sell products three years after the Alabama Legislature approved the medical marijuana program in 2021.

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) began accepting applications in late 2022. The AMCC initially issued licenses in June but voided them due to scoring inconsistencies, later rescinding awards again in August amid a lawsuit over Open Meetings Act violations. The AMCC issued new licensing rules in October. The commission issued licenses a third time in December, but litigation halted the licensing process again in January for dispensaries and integrated facilities.

The litigation over the charges has ground the process to a halt. Even if the lawsuits are resolved, it could be months before legal medical cannabis is available in dispensaries.

Brittany Peters, spokesperson for AMCC, said in a statement that the restraining order preventing dispensary licenses from being issued is preventing products from reaching the patients.

“We do have cultivators who are preparing to harvest their first crops, and they are faced with the uncertainty of when that product can be sold to patients. Processor, secure transporter, and state testing laboratory licenses have been issued and those licensees are working toward commencing their operations,” Peters said in a statement.

She said the investigative hearing process is ongoing in those license categories where no stay was imposed by the Court.

Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) the chair of the Senate’s Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, said the ongoing litigation over the commission’s licensing process had turned it into a “money pit” in a recent Contract Review Committee meeting.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), previously said to the Reflector that there’s no way to tell how long the litigation process will take. Georgia—which does not have its program up to capacity after eight years of making low-THC medical cannabis products available for certain conditions—faced lawsuits because of limited licenses on its program. The state opened its first dispensary in 2023.

When the product is available, patients certified by participating physicians will be able to use medical cannabis for 15 conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. Patients will have to apply for a card to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensers.

The law bans smoking cannabis or consuming it in food. Cannabis will be available in tablets, capsules, gelatins like gummies, oils, gels, creams, suppositories, transdermal patches or inhalable oils or liquids. Cannabis gummies will only be allowed to be peach-flavored.

Attempts in the Legislature to address the ongoing litigation mostly failed this year. The only medical cannabis bill sent to Gov. Kay Ivey was HB 390, sponsored by Danny Crawford (R-Athens), which moves licensing powers for cultivators to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

SB 276, sponsored by Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay), would have increased the maximum number of dispensary licenses from four to seven, required the commission to issue 10 licenses for integrated facilities, and increased processor licenses from four to six. It also required confirmation of licenses granted last year by June 15.

SB 306, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), would have restarted the licensing process and reduced some powers of the AMCC, with the Alabama Securities Commission verifying applications. Both bills stalled in the Senate and never reached a vote.

Melissa Mullins, a patient advocate, said that if the program is meant to benefit Alabamians who need cannabis medical benefits, then let dispensaries open while integrated facilities challenge the commission in court.

Integrated facilities—multimillion dollar operations that can grow, process and sell medical cannabis—have been at the center of the ongoing litigation regarding licenses.

“Let the integrated facilities fight for the next 100,000 years for all I care, but let the other parts of the program proceed. Let’s get medication out to these patients while everybody else decides what they want to do, because that is possible,” Mullins said.

This story was first published by Alabama Reflector.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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