More medical cannabis companies join legal battle over license awards

Multiple companies seek inclusion in ongoing proceedings, raising concerns about evaluation process

By: - July 6, 2023 5:00 pm
A row of cannabis plants in a greenhouse.

A cannabis farm greenhouse. The director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission resigned on Thursday, saying he did not want the commission to get bogged down in a lawsuit. (Getty Images)

At least three other companies filed a motion to join in the ongoing legal proceedings related to the award of medical cannabis licenses.

CRC of Alabama, who was denied a cultivator license, along with Specialty Medical Products of Alabama, an integrated facility applicant also denied a license, joined another integrated facility applicant Alabama Always as plaintiffs.

Sustainable Alabama, an integrated facility that was awarded a license, filed a motion to join the AMCC as defendant. The plaintiffs agreed with the commission’s request to extend the stay expiring on July 13 to August 10.

Alabama Always, who was denied an integrated facility license, asked the Circuit Court of Montgomery on June 23rd to enter a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction for Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s decision to delay awarding medical cannabis licenses.

The court issued a stay on top of the commission’s delay, affirming the commission’s decision.

The commission is working with a “Big Four” accounting firm to evaluate the scoring of applications, and that the firm should have more information for the commission at the end of July.

“That would then give us a little over a week before the next standard meeting of commission, which would be August the 10th,” said William Webster, an attorney representing AMCC.

Webster said the plan “would be” unveiled at the August meeting to revisit awarding the licenses and “void everything that’s happened so far.”

“I think that’s the only way to set people back on the same level playing field and then – from that point forward, at that same meeting – reissue, or rather re-award licenses, as they should be based on the information and what the Commission decides it needs to do,” he said.

AMCC spokesperson Brittany Peters said Wednesday that the Commission will provide more details about the ongoing process at its July 10th meeting.

“The plan is to update on who the auditor of the tabulation scoring is, as well as a tentative timeline of when we should expect results and move forward in the process,” she said.

AMCC Commissioner John McMillan said after the hearing that some applicants who were previously denied a license may receive an award. Likewise, some applicants awarded a license in June may find out they will no longer be issued one.

McMillan added the Commission will conduct a thorough investigation and will make the final decision on the license awards.

“It’ll be up to the commissioners to decide how much strength they want to put in the numbers that are calculated,” he said.

Man gives tour of integrated medical cannabis facility
Gregory Gerdeman, a biologist charged with guiding the facility’s development, gives a tour of Alabama Always’ facility outside of Montgomery Thursday, July 6th, 2023. (Alander Rocha/Alabama Reflector)

Applicants denied a license have voiced concerns with the evaluation process. Alabama Always conducted a tour of its facility the morning of the court hearing and criticized the agency for not visiting the facility before deciding. Gregory Gerdeman, a biologist charged with guiding the facility’s development, said it would be difficult to gauge the facility’s readiness without touring it and seeing the site firsthand, as well as other facilities across the state. 

“We never had any kind of visit, formally, by anyone involved in the process,” Gerdeman said on the tour of the facility Thursday morning. “At most they could have driven by the road, but you can see — without interviewing, without seeing what’s actually here — there’s no way.”

McMillan said the agency could not visit all the 320 sites before awarding licenses. The site visits are meant to be done between the time the licenses are awarded and when they are issued.

“The site visits were intended by the legislature to meet in that interim time, so we can be sure — that’s a part of making sure — that the applicants can live up to what they committed to in their applications,” McMillan said.


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Alander Rocha
Alander Rocha

Alander Rocha is a journalist based in Montgomery, and he reports on government, policy and healthcare. He previously worked for KFF Health News and the Red & Black, Georgia's student newspaper. He is a Tulane and Georgia alumnus with a two-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps.