BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A judge has officially halted Alabama’s medical cannabis license rollout.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Anderson entered the stay Friday. It suspends the licensing until the Commission resolves what they call “inconsistencies in the tabulation of scoring data.” This comes after a company whose application was denied sued the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission this week, alleging the process was “clouded in secrecy.”
The Commission imposed a stay on itself last week, but lawyers for the company Alabama Always, LLC claim that wasn’t properly authorized.
“We were concerned that the Commission didn’t do it properly, didn’t give proper notice, that it didn’t have the authority under its rules and regulations to issue a stay,” attorney Will Somerville said. “So we thought if we just sat around and let the time continue to run, we would lose our rights or have to file an immediate appeal. So, we’re happy that the judge agreed to do that.”
Plaintiffs sued the commission Thursday after being denied an integrated facility license. They said they’ve already spent more than $4.5 million on a facility in west Montgomery and disagreed with how they were scored.
“We have a facility, state-of-the-art facility, that is well on the way of being completed, and certainly feel that we can meet the guidelines that were set forth in the rules and (regulations),” Alabama Always lobbyist Arch Lee said.
The lawsuit alleges the process for awarding licenses lacked transparency and may have violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. During that June 12 meeting, the commission met in a private executive session for roughly three hours before voting publicly with little discussion.
The commission selected the University of South Alabama to score the applications, but not much is known about their evaluation process. Lawyers also claim the commission members should choose who gets licenses, not third-party scorers.
“We think that if they are allowed to exercise their own judgement, which I think they were appointed to do, then I think we have an excellent chance. If the process continues to be clouded in mystery and secrecy, we don’t know,” Somerville said.
Both lawyers for the commission and the company agreed to the stay. It’s not clear at this point how long it will be in effect as the judge did not set a timeline.
Brittany Peterson, external affairs director the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, said in a statement in response to the lawsuit:
“We have do not have any additional comments concerning the litigation. At this time, we do not have an estimate on when the independent review of score tabulation will be completed. The Commission will coordinate with the Court regarding the stay and resumption of the application and licensing process.”