Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission sued over alleged Open Meetings Act violations

By: - August 15, 2023 6:56 pm
A person with a blue glove holds a cannabis plant.

A technician inspects the leaves of cannabis plants growing inside a controlled environment in North Macedonia. (Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg)

A medical cannabis company Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC), alleging the commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Alabama Always, which sued the commission last month over the appointment of former chair Steven Stokes, 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.

“They told the judge they would comply with the act, and then they didn’t,” said Will Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, in a phone interview Tuesday. “And I think the evidence that we presented in the motion was really clear that violated the act.”


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

Nearly all the firms awarded licenses two months ago got them back, and the commission granted additional licenses to firms looking to grow medical cannabis. Alabama Always was not awarded a license in either round.

A group of men in suits sitting around a circular desk, with a crowd of people behind them.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission voided all licenses awarded in June and re-awarded them in the Aug. 10, 2023 meeting in Montgomery. Left to Right: Vice Chair Sam Blakemore, Chair Rex Vaughn, Director John McMillan and commission member Dwight Gamble. (Alander Rocha/Alabama Reflector)

Brittany Peters, spokesperson for the AMCC, said Tuesday they are aware of the filing but could not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit claims that comments made by the AMCC Chair Rex Vaughn and attorney Will Webster during the meeting implied they were going to discuss “impermissible subjects” in the executive session, and that staff from the University of South Alabama joining the executive session was also a violation of the OMA.

Lynne Chronister, University of South Alabama’s vice president for research and economic development, and Kristen Roberts, the university’s financial officer, spoke to the commission at the Aug. 10 meeting to describe flaws with an evaluation process overseen by the university. The flaws led to the first pause in the issuing of licenses.

The lawsuit alleges that Webster’s comments before going into executive session did not suggest the session was for the purposes of discussing a “state-sanctioned profession,” but rather, “to discuss, in private, outside of public scrutiny, against the clear policy of the State of Alabama, the ability of applicants for medical cannabis licenses to comply with the requirements of the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act.”

“Well, that’s precisely the kind of stuff that ought to be in public,” Somerville 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.