Alabama judge extends hold on medical cannabis licensing

Alabama judge extends hold on medical cannabis licensing


An Alabama judge Tuesday said he would enter another temporary restraining order on the stalled licensing process for medical cannabis licenses.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Anderson directed companies denied a license and the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) to provide a jointly proposed order that would allow investigative hearings on awarded licenses to continue but would prevent those licenses from being issued.

“I’m not really happy about telling somebody exactly what to do, but that’s my intent to have that into place to make sure that everybody’s rights [are protected], even the people who have gotten licenses,” Anderson said.

The commission initially objected, citing its own stay preventing licenses from being issued, but it agreed to a modified restraining order allowing AMCC to proceed with investigative hearings and outlining the process to denied applicants.

The new restraining order comes from a request from Alabama Always, one of the companies denied a license in all three rounds. They also challenged licenses that were awarded on top of their own denied licenses, arguing that they can’t properly argue why they should have a license without arguing why the other company got one.

Will Somerville, attorney for Alabama Always, said that because the commission has not given denied applicants a chance to challenge awarded licenses, the process should be subject to the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act.

“I think that if so-and-so who got a license isn’t qualified to get a license, I should be able to point that out, go to a hearing with them and challenge them and make them put up or shut up about can they satisfy the requirements of the act,” Somerville said.

AMCC first awarded licenses to produce medical cannabis June 2023, but the commission voided them after they said there were inconsistencies in scoring applications. The commission attempted a second time to award licenses in August, but a lawsuit alleging Open Meetings Act violations derailed the process. The commission attempted a third time in December to award licenses, where further litigation has stalled the process.


Attempts in the Legislature to address the legal problems mostly failed this year. The only bill related to medical cannabis that was sent to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk was HB 390, sponsored by Danny Crawford, R-Athens, which shifts licensing powers for cultivators from the Department of Agriculture and Industries to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

SB 276, sponsored by Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, would have increased the maximum number of licenses in some categories and instructed the commission to confirm any licenses granted by the commission from June to December of last year by June 15. SB 306, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, who also sponsored the 2021 medical cannabis legislation, would have restarted the licensing process and taken away some of the powers of the AMCC.

The two bills — aimed at starting the program — stalled in the Senate and never reached the floor for a vote before the end of the session.

There was a short discussion about lifting a separate restraining order on dispensaries, which would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients, but the judge said they would take that up at a later date. Patrick Dungan, lawyer for Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries, said he the stay should not be lifted as he separately asked the court to review the licensing process, which is currently in the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

“We got something on appeal right now,” he said.


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