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Judge stays medical marijuana licenses as companies argue selection process was flawed

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to temporarily halt the issuance of licenses to growers and distributers as two companies argue the state used a flawed and secretive process to selectin winners for the potentially lucrative licenses.

The order re-enforces a decision already made last week by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to stay the licenses awarded on June 12 after the chairman said they discovered “potential inconsistency in the tabulation of scoring data.” Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson on Friday issued a temporary restraining order, staying the licenses until the issue regarding the scoring data is resolved. The state and companies agreed to the stay, which also preserves the denied companies’ right to request an administrative appeal and review.

Anderson scheduled a July 13 hearing on the companies’ request for a preliminary injunction as the companies argue the entire selection process was flawed.

Alabama Always and Hornet Medicinals, two companies that applied for the five integrated “seed to sale” licenses, have sued the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission arguing there were problems with the process for awarding licenses. A lawyer for Alabama Always argued in court filing that the commission used anonymous graders hired by the University of South Alabama to score applications and then awarded them without any discussion on June 12.

“We think from day one that this process has been cloaked in secrecy,” William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always told Anderson during the Friday court hearing.

Somerville told reporters that the company disagreed with how it was scored, particularly on finances, noting the company had already invested $4.5 million on a cultivation facility. The company wrote in court filings that it is prepared to open and stock stores with medical marijuana by January if not sooner.

Alabama Always is asking Anderson to order the commission to turn over additional information about the scoring and selection process.

The commission has not elaborated on the problems with the scoring other than to say there were potential inconsistencies.

“The stay is recommended due to the (commission’s) discovery of potential inconsistency in the tabulation of scoring data,” Dr. Steven Stokes, an oncologist who chairs the commission, said during last week’s meeting.

Alabama lawmakers in 2021 ended years of resistance and approved the creation of a program to allow marijuana to be used for certain medical conditions. However, it is not available yet to patients because the state has to develop rules and award grower and distributor licenses.

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