When the state Legislature in 2021 passed a law allowing medical cannabis, it did so in hopes of alleviating the suffering of individuals who could benefit from the use of the drug.
Today, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission finds itself in a dilemma as legal battles over its selection of medical cannabis suppliers intensifies.
While the Commission appears to have made multiple missteps in its selection process, no one should be fooled into thinking this is any longer about helping those in need——it is only about money——and greed for profits.
The selection process requires that the Commission not only choose the best companies but also show fairness and transparency and that its method stand judicial scrutiny.
The current system the Commission used to determine winners and losers on its face seems flawed or at least messy enough to open a floodgate for litigation—which was always inevitable.
The Commission must now determine its path forward, and it seems apparent that the best solution is to admit failings and restart the process.
The Commission should begin its start-over by hiring a consulting firm with expertise overseeing complicated selection processes. While this will cost money, it will also ensure a better outcome and hold more weight in a court of law.
In its initial application process, the Commission’s portal only allowed a 10-megabyte file to be uploaded. This limited file size was inadequate for many of the plans submitted and must be changed to accommodate larger documents. The Commission must expand the file sizes allowed and offer alternative submissions on USB drives or other methods. Every company needs to feel confident that its plan is given every opportunity to be evaluated in its best light.
Once all the applications are submitted, the Commissioners must personally review each application. After the Commissioners’ review, an independent and recognized firm should be employed to evaluate all contenders and to rate each applicant. The review process must have a clear, transparent and logical scoring system. The firm carrying out the scoring should submit a list of companies for further evaluation by the Commission.
For example: If the scoring firm reviews 20 companies in a single category, it should select the top five to present to the Commission. With those in hand, the Commission and staff will tour facilities and meet with company representatives. From that list, the Commission should determine its top contenders.
Next, to ensure confidence in the process, the Commissioners should hold a public hearing to discuss and cast a final roll-call vote. Only after a clean and clear process should licenses be awarded.
A restart is the only commonsense solution to the Commission’s dilemma. This is not a “Sophie’s Choice,” but still one fraught with pitfalls.
Florida spent years in litigation after its medical cannabis law was adopted. Georgia, too, has had its share of legal challenges over medical cannabis.
Alabama doesn’t need years of courtroom drama and can avoid the worst by getting it right in a redo.
No matter how fair, flawless and transparent the state’s process is in awarding medical cannabis licenses, someone will sue because, for them, it is about money——obscene amounts of cash.
But the Commission must work hard to provide a coherent selection process that can be tested and found legally solid and ethically responsible.
The Legislature passed a law to help those in physical and mental pain, and the Commission is charged with finding the best companies to supply the medication.
It’s time to face the dilemma with resolve so that people in need can be helped, as lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey intended.