red building with clock tower

In a recent development, a Montgomery County Circuit Judge has temporarily halted Alabama’s medical cannabis program. This decision comes in the wake of a lawsuit accusing the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) of infringing the state’s Open Meetings Act during its latest gathering. Judge James Anderson’s ruling followed a tense hearing where the AMCC’s attorney hinted at the possibility of exposing applicants’ potentially damaging information.

Consequently, applicants who were denied a license will be unable to request an investigative hearing until the stay is lifted. Furthermore, the commission will be required to pause site visits and evaluations. John McMillan, the AMCC Director, expressed that issuing licenses at the upcoming August 31 meeting would be “impossible.”

He suggested that another meeting would likely need to be scheduled and site visits completed. The lawsuit was filed by Alabama Always, a company that was unsuccessful in its application for a license. The company had previously sued the commission over the appointment of its former chair, Steven Stokes. The current lawsuit alleges that during an executive session, commission members privately nominated companies for public votes on license awards. The suit further claims that during this session, commission members were directed to seal their nominations in an envelope. The companies with the most nominations were then put to a public vote in the August 10 meeting.

The AMCC had re-awarded licenses for the production and distribution of medical cannabis at this meeting, following a two-month pause due to questions surrounding the evaluation of applications. The judge has granted permission for other parties to join the lawsuit by the end of the week. Alabama Always, along with other companies suing the AMCC, will need to demonstrate that the commission violated state law.

Will Somerville, attorney for Alabama Always, argued that the delay could have been avoided had the commission adhered to the law. In a heated exchange during the hearing, Will Webster, an attorney for the AMCC, questioned the judge about how the commission should proceed. Judge Anderson responded that he couldn’t advise the commission on how to conduct its business, adding that he was left dealing with the allegations. Webster retorted that if the case were to be revisited, the commission would no longer protect anyone’s reputation or character and would openly discuss everyone’s “dirty laundry.”

McMillan clarified after the hearing that “dirty laundry” referred to issues discovered during background checks that were part of the decision-making process. A hearing on the commission’s alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act has been scheduled for August 28, 2023, at 1:30 p.m. The story was first reported by the Alabama Reflector.

By Kenny Hofmann

Kenny is a staff writer and avid psychedelics explorer.