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Medical Cannabis Commission aims to issue licenses this year after adopting new rules

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission on Thursday adopted a new set of emergency rules that members hope will see licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana issued by the end of the year.

Adopted during an AMCC meeting in the State House, the new rules were designed to increase transparency in the license selection process and offer new opportunities for applicants to request information from the commission.

‘The proposed rule would permit an expeditious, yet transparent process for all applicants to address the issues that have been raised in regards to their applications, including any suggested deficiencies in scoring process or technical issues that they claim may have prevented them from providing their full exhibits,” said Mark Wilkerson, attorney for the AMCC.

“It’s intended to balance the rights and desires of the applicants with the commission’s desire to bring this matter to a conclusion (and) have licenses issued in an expeditious fashion.”

The new rules were largely a response to a flurry of lawsuits that have targeted the commission for its process in which it decided which companies would be awarded a license.

One of the common complaints among applicants was the method in which companies were scored. Under the new rules, the commission will release its general scoring criteria, as well as afford applicants the opportunity to request their own scoring notes.

Another common complaint was the application process itself, which some companies noted in litigation was limited by a maximum file size for attachments. Under the new rules, applicants may now have the opportunity to share application-related documents without file-size constraints, provided they’re able to demonstrate that the initial file size limit hindered their original application.

Commission Chair Rex Vaughn said that while the AMCC had an “aggressive, rigorous timeline ahead of us,” the goal still remained to have the commission issue licenses by the end of the year.

“I’m pretty confident (we’ll award licenses by the end of the year), it all depends on what the courts allow us to do, but we do think we’re making headway with the courts based on yesterday’s decision,” Vaughn said, referring to a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the commission. “We are hoping by the end of the year we can award licenses.”

Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission Chair Rex Vaughn (right).

William Somerville, an attorney for Alabama Always, another company that sued the commission, told Alabama Daily News that he thought the new rules were a “step in the right direction,” specifically highlighting the added transparency as an improvement.

And while the commission has set itself an ambitious timeline to issue licenses, some hoping to access medical marijuana products say the process can’t move fast enough.

“It is vital for patients like myself who are suffering, and it’s not just that we are suffering, it’s that we are dying,” said Amanda Taylor, an advocate for medical cannabis diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological condition that can cause seizures.

“There is 50-years’ worth of research (on medical cannabis), and yet we’re here and we’re battling over things that we should not be battling (over),” Taylor said. “My health is suffering greatly because I’m having to do without medical cannabis; I want to see this move as quickly as possible.”

Vaughn told ADN that he was fairly confident that the new rules would satisfy the existing grievances voiced by applicants, grievances he described as being “legitimate complaints that we need to address.”

The next step for the AMCC, Vaughn said, was to void the second license awards made in August. Then, companies can resubmit their applications and the commission will – members hope – award the licenses for a third and final time.

The next meeting of the AMCC is scheduled for Oct. 26.

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