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Alabama’s Medical Marijuana Regulators Still Negotiating Settlement Of Licensing Process Lawsuit



“Discussions [between lawyers] have not yielded any business that the Commission needs to consider at this time.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) and lawyers for companies that sued over the licensing process are continuing negotiations over a possible settlement.

The AMCC canceled a scheduled Tuesday meeting after lawyers for both sides met on Friday to discuss the impasse that has prevented the commission from issuing licenses to companies awarded one.

A statement posted to the AMCC website said that “discussions [between lawyers] have not yielded any business that the Commission needs to consider at this time,” but called the dialogue “productive.”

Will Somerville, attorney for Alabama Always, a cannabis company suing the state over the issuance of licenses, said Tuesday that the discussions were a positive development.

“What I can say is that we had a meeting with the Commission lawyers on Friday, and some of the commission staff were there, and we presented my ideas for not moving forward,” Somerville said. “And they listened to us.”

From the plaintiff’s perspective, he said it was “certainly a start,” though he did not share specifics.

The AMCC faces several lawsuits over the licensing process. The lawsuits allege that the commission violated the state Open Meetings Act while issuing licenses on August 10, or improperly voided licenses granted in an earlier round.

Alabama Always, which sued the commission after it did not get a license in the earlier rounds of awards, wants a third round of licensing to include site visits, or at minimum a requirement that applicants provide videos of their facilities, Somerville previously said. The company also wants the commission to reconsider previous scores.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Anderson in early September extended a temporary restraining order to allow the negotiations to go forward. The commission issued a current administrative stay the week before, at which meeting AMCC chair Rex Vaughn said a third award was likely.

The next step is for the commission to present plaintiffs a proposal for moving forward, which he said he looks “forward to receiving it.”

Brittany Peters, spokesperson for the AMCC, said the commission expects the dialogue to continue.

“At this time, I cannot provide an estimation as to when a proposal will be ready or be considered by the Commission,” she said.

Another meeting amongst lawyers is not yet scheduled, but Somerville said he would be surprised if one isn’t scheduled before the next commission meeting on October 12.

Will Webster, an attorney for AMCC, did not return a request for comment.

Aretha Dix, a former Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission member and dispensary applicant denied a license, said the process has been unfair and hopes that the commission will have discussions with applicants about vague scoring. She wondered if the commission even looked at her application.

“I just felt like had they looked at applications, they would have seen the breadth of experience that some people truly have,” she said.

She can sell her company face-to-face, she said, but that’s much harder to do by simply uploading an application to a portal.

“I just think that they need to have a face-to-face. This is what I would love to see,” she said. “Have a face-to-face with your applicants and tell them, ‘Hey, this is why we did not select you.’”

This story was first published by the Alabama Reflector.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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