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First lawsuit filed over medical marijuana licenses

The lawsuit asked a judge to impose a stay on licenses and force the commission to do its own reviews.

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The first lawsuit over the Alabama Cannabis Commission’s bungled awarding of licenses was filed Thursday afternoon in Montgomery Circuit Court, asking a judge to impose a court-ordered stay on the awarding of licenses and to require the Commission to perform its own evaluations of applicants. 

Alabama Always LLC., one of the many applicants that didn’t receive a license at the Commission’s June 12 meeting, filed the lawsuit, in which it claims the Commission abdicated its duties to various third parties and then relied blindly on the information returned by the third parties. That information, the lawsuit states and the Commission has all but admitted publicly, was flawed. 

The Commission made that admission at a June 16 meeting, where it put a stay on the issued licenses due to “inconsistencies” it found in the scoring process. 

The lawsuit claims those inconsistencies are the result of the Commission abdicating its duties to a group of “graders” that were supervised by the University of South Alabama. The Commission members never reviewed the applicants, the lawsuit claims. 

The grades for the applicants were then forwarded by USA to the Commission, which didn’t review them until the morning of the June 12 meeting. The review took place in executive session and the Commission simply announced the results. 

“The Commission is composed of highly-qualified individuals who were appointed because of their unique and extensive experience in a wide range of fields,” the lawsuit reads. “They should be permitted to use their experience and judgment to make these important licensure decisions, rather than being advised to base their decisions exclusively on scores provided by anonymous graders.”

Alabama Always also took issue in the lawsuit with the secretive nature of the decision to award licenses, which apparently was made during an executive session with no public debate or discussion. 

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The lawsuit also claims that no Commission member ever visited proposed sites or met with applicants. It also goes into detail on the flawed application process, during which several applicants discovered that they couldn’t upload detailed plans for facilities and construction due to an arbitrary 10mb file size limit. 

The lawsuit claims that some applicants were provided a “work around” for the file size issue, while other applicants were never told that they could deviate from the plan. That issue, Alabama Always claims, led to a lower score of its application because it was forced to reduce the quality of its files to meet the limit, and the Commission’s application guidelines required that files be clear and easy to read. 

Specifically, Alabama Always is asking the court to impose a stay – because it’s concerned the stay issued by the Commission isn’t proper – and require the Commission to review the applications itself, as required under Alabama law, and also hold all decision-making discussions in public meetings. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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