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Medical marijuana dispensary licenses blocked

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A judge temporarily blocked Alabama from issuing licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries amid an ongoing legal battle over how the state selected the winning companies.

Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson issued a temporary restraining order late Thursday to stop the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission from issuing licenses to the four dispensaries. The licenses will be on hold while he hears a challenge to the selection process.

The court order is the latest development in an ongoing legal battle that has plagued the start of Alabama’s medical marijuana program. Alabama lawmakers voted to allow medical marijuana in the state in 2021. Commission officials are aiming to make the products available in 2024 after a series of delays.

The ruling affects only the dispensaries. Brittany Peters, a spokeswoman for the commission, said Friday that the commission has issued licenses to other companies that were selected to cultivate, transport, and test marijuana.

The commission next month is set to issue the coveted “integrated” licenses for multifunctional companies that grow, transport and sell medical marijuana. Anderson has not yet ruled on a request to block the issuance of the integrated licenses.

Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries had sought the pause on the dispensary licenses. Yellowhammer was selected in the commission’s first two attempts to award the licenses this summer, but the commission rescinded the awards amid disputes about the selection process. Yellowhammer was not selected in the latest round.

Patrick Dungan, a lawyer representing Yellowhammer, said the company is pleased to see the court intervene.

Dungan said Yellowhammer had unsuccessfully urged the commission to allow two dispensary licenses to go forward and withhold a decision on the final two. He said the company is “only looking for a fair opportunity to be heard on how we were denied a license after achieving the second-highest score and being awarded a license twice.”

Anderson said he is sympathetic to concerns about delaying the availability of medical marijuana but said a pause on the licenses is merited.

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