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Opinion | The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission: An absolute mess

The events leading to Monday’s court hearing for the AMCC are a microcosm of the issues that have plagued this process from the start.

Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission

The messiness continues to grow for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. 

On Monday afternoon, in a Montgomery Circuit Court, lawyers for the AMCC essentially agreed to once again pause the issuing of medical cannabis licenses while they negotiate privately with several cannabis companies who have filed lawsuits against the Commission. Those lawsuits are likely to result, it appears from speaking to several people involved in the ongoing negotiations, in what will amount to a process reset. 

That means: The AMCC will likely start the licensure process all over. 

Swell, huh? 

This is what happens when you put together a 10-cent process to accommodate a billion-dollar industry. And honestly, 10 cents might be nine cents too high for valuing the Cannabis Commission and the way it’s handled the only job it has. 

For the second time now, we are stopping the issuing of licenses after the AMCC has voted on companies to receive them. The first time, it was due to flaws in the grading process. This time, it is due to flaws in pretty much everything else.  

Multiple lawsuits filed against the Commission have exposed deep and troubling mistakes, unfairness and – to put it bluntly – really, really stupid decisions. 

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It’s an embarrassment how the AMCC and its attorneys have botched this. And everyone seems to hold that opinion.

Monday’s hearing in Judge James Anderson’s court was packed with lawyers and politicos and media. The conversations all contained the same phrase: “This is a mess.” 

Even Anderson, near the end of the proceedings, weighed in on the spectacle, telling the attorneys gathered that it was his understanding that Mississippi was six months behind Alabama in passing a medical cannabis law and is on the verge of starting to fill prescriptions. 

“We can’t even say, ‘Thank God for Mississippi,’ in this case,” Anderson said with a smile. 

To illustrate the absurdity of all this, and so you’ll have a better understanding of the incompetence at play here, let me tell you about the series of events that led to Monday’s hearing before Anderson. 

The first thing you need to know is that at about 8 a.m. Monday morning, there wasn’t going to be a hearing. The attorneys for all the various sides in this fight had negotiated through the weekend and had reached a compromise to essentially do exactly what they did in the courtroom on Monday. 

They had agreed to extend the temporary restraining order, which would block the issuing of licenses, while they worked to set the parameters of a do-over application process. 

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I know this because APR received late Sunday evening a copy of a proposed order that the attorneys had agreed on, and they were set to file Monday morning. 

Early on Monday morning, AMCC director John McMillan signed off on the agreement and everything was in order. The next step was a call with Anderson to inform the judge that the two sides would be delaying the hearing for a couple of weeks and working towards a grand resolution. 

Except … on the phone call, one of the AMCC’s attorneys, Jason Aday, backed out, according to multiple sources who were on the call. 


The sources said Aday had reservations about agreeing to the compromise without it first getting approval from AMCC’s outside legal counsel, William Webster. 

Why hadn’t Webster signed off on the deal? 

Funny you should ask. 

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According to the sources, and supported by copies of emails and text messages reviewed by APR, Webster had so irritated the attorneys working for the various plaintiffs in the case that they had refused to continue negotiating with him. In fact, one stipulation for the deal moving forward was that Webster could no longer be involved. And up until that phone call with Anderson, everyone agreed that was cool. 

But wait. Want it to be even weirder? 

Try this: the process for replacing Webster was already under way by early Sunday, and his replacement, Montgomery attorney Mark Wilkerson, had reportedly already received deputy attorney general status from the Alabama AG’s office before Monday morning. 

Which means there was no reason to get Webster’s approval. 

Didn’t matter. The deal blew up. A pointless hearing was held. Taxpayers wasted more money on a process that is about to enter its third attempt at doing the one thing it is supposed to do. 

But this sort of weirdness, and ineptness, and obtuseness is why. And until someone steps up on the government’s side of this ordeal and takes control and responsibility, this is the way it’s going to continue. 

An absolute mess.

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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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