MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Anderson dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that could have serious ramifications on Alabama’s ongoing rollout of medical marijuana.
Filed by Verano Alabama, the lawsuit alleged that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission – the appointed body responsible for awarding a limited number of licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana – had no authority to revoke licenses as it did over the summer. The AMCC first awarded licenses in June to 21 companies, but never issued them due to the discovery of scoring errors.
Verano was among the 21 companies to be selected for licenses in June, but was not selected during the commission’s second attempt to award licenses in August.
Before the judge’s ruling, Saxon Main, an attorney for Verano, made his case before the court in a Tuesday hearing.
“The agency decision was to void the award of license,” Saxon said. “They don’t dispute that we were awarded a license, we were awarded a license and we paid a $50,000 fee.”
Anderson, as well as Mike Jackson, attorney for the AMCC, contended that Verano’s assertion relied on the licenses actually being issued, which they ultimately never were.
“We have this unique situation where we use the word ‘award’ a license, but there was no license issued,” Anderson told Saxon.
Immediately after the hearing, William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, another company that sued the commission after not receiving a license, told members of the press that were Verano’s case dismissed, it would likely be a benefit to Alabama Always. Unlike Verano, Alabama Always has argued that the commission’s entire scoring process was flawed from the beginning, and that it should be completely redone.
“I think it (motion to dismiss) helps our case because it means that the commission had the authority to resend the license awards that it made in June, and then implicitly the ones that it made in August as well,” Somerville said.
“We think that the scoring process is illegal because it doesn’t affect the statutory requirements that were intended to get more product to market quickly to help the people that need the medical cannabis.”
Wednesday afternoon, Anderson ultimately ruled in favor of the commission’s request to dismiss Verano’s lawsuit, writing that “the commission’s authority to award licenses inherently includes the power to void and correct those awards.”
“… The court also concludes that the commission’s express authority to stay the licensing process impliedly includes the power to rescind or void its June 12 license awards. If the commission has no power to rescind awarded licenses, then there could be no legitimate reason for the commission to stay licenses in the first place.”
The AMCC will meet today. Vice Chair Sam Blakemore told ADN recently that commission members plan to unveil a new path forward for issuing licenses, something he described as “a reset.”