Connect with us


Alabama Senator Calls State Medical Cannabis Commission A ‘Money Pit’ Amid Ongoing Litigation



“I don’t know what the problems are, but we need to get that resolved over there or we are going to have to do something legislatively to correct this.”

By Ralph Chapoco, Alabama Reflector

The head of the Senate’s General Fund budget committee last week vented frustration at the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s legal woes.

Speaking at Thursday’s Contract Review Committee meeting, 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.”

“Right now, we are putting money into it,” he said. “Right now, we are having more and more and more suits coming in. I don’t know what the problems are, but we need to get that resolved over there or we are going to have to do something legislatively to correct this.”

Brittany Peters, a spokeswoman for the AMCC, said in a statement Monday that the commission’s “longstanding position” was seeing the state medical cannabis program “become fully operational as soon as possible.”

“With the priority of serving patients in the state who would benefit from medical cannabis, the commission is committed to defending against the lawsuits filed by disappointed applicants,” the statement said. “The commission is hopeful that the Legislature shares this same commitment to patient needs, and it welcomes further conversation with lawmakers”

The senator directed his comments to Gunter Guy, general counsel with Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, who presented the committee with a legal contract for a firm to represent the commission.

The Department presented legislators with a new contract for $100,000 funded by the state for years at a rate of $195 per hour to Gregg B. Everett, Esq.; Gilpin & Givhan, PC, a firm based out of Montgomery.

According to the accompanying agenda packet, attorneys for the firm will represent Commissioner Rick Pate and the Department of Agriculture and Industries in “several lawsuits” regarding the commission.

The Department justified the contract by stating that it is “complex litigation which requires legal services not available within the Department.”

The Alabama Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to establish a medical cannabis program to help address several illnesses, from cancer and depression to Parkinson’s Disease and PTSD.

The Commission first awarded licenses back in June, but the body had to reclaim the licenses after members found scoring inconsistencies in the evaluation of applications. Commissioners awarded a second round of licenses in August, but those were delayed amid litigation alleging the AMCC violated the Open Meetings Act. Another suit has halted some licenses getting awarded in December.

“I am expressing my frustration over how adults can seem to find our way into a hole such as this without a clear path to where we thought we were going,” said Albritton, who voted for the 2021 measure.

Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), the chair of the committee, said he “couldn’t agree more.”

“As you are aware, the Agriculture Commissioner was put on this group,” he said. “And there is legislation working through our system now that would remove him from this and thus stop the need for Ag and Industries to come into contract.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Attempts to address the jams through legislation have stalled. In April, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee approved SB 306, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), who sponsored the 2021 bill. The legislation would restart the licensing process and give up some of its powers to judge applications. Under the legislation, the Alabama Securities Commission will verify and evaluate applicants’ proposals, then send the results to the AMCC to select the candidates.

The commission would oversee regulation and enforcement.

The bill has not come out for a vote in the Senate. With only three days left in the 2024 session, the legislation has a very tight window to pass. SB 276, a bill sponsored by Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay), which would have increased the licenses available, is also awaiting a Senate vote.

Albritton said Thursday that if the issues cannot be resolved, then it may be time to do away with the program, saying “maybe we ought to simply dispose of it.”

This story was first published by Alabama Reflector.

Georgians Have High Hopes That Rescheduling Will Make It Easier For Patients To Obtain Medical Marijuana Through Pharmacies

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.