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Cannabis commission chairman resigns amid lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Dr. Steve Stokes, chairman of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, resigned from his position Wednesday after being sued over the legality of his ability to head the commission.

Created in 2021, the commission is tasked with awarding licenses for the right to grow and distribute medical marijuana in the state. Originally slated to award said licenses in July, the process has been delayed amid the discovery of scoring inconsistencies and lawsuits from companies over the process.

Filed by Kimberly Holcomb, the lawsuit asked that Stokes be removed from his position of chairman given that, as a member of the University of South Alabama Board of Trustees, Stokes was a public official, a disqualifier for the position. His resignation was first reported by Jonathan Hardison at WBRC in Birmingham.

Stokes previously told Alabama Daily News that he believed the lawsuit was “just a way to try to discredit the commission” and delay the process, as the limited number of licenses carry the potential of generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue a year. He also said last week that he would not resign. After speaking with his attorney and the judge presiding over the case, however, Stokes ultimately had a change of heart.

“Initially, I was going to fight it, I thought it was the wrong thing to be accusing me of, but cooler heads prevailed,” Stokes told ADN on Thursday.

“If I remained on the commission, it would stop the entire process until we litigated this, which could take months, and I just think that’s the wrong decision. The people of Alabama have been waiting too long to get medical cannabis for those who need it, and if I step aside, I hope it goes forward.”

Stokes told ADN that he recommended Rex Vaughn, the current vice chair of the committee, to take his position, and that commission member Sam Blakemore, a pharmacist, take the position of vice chair.

The commission is scheduled to award medical marijuana licenses on Thursday, Aug. 10. If Stokes were to fight the lawsuit in court, that meeting would be postponed, which Stokes said was the key component in his decision to resign.

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