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The Cannabis Commission has problems with its own witnesses

The AMCC wants to block affidavits from its own witnesses.

Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission on Tuesday asked a circuit court to block affidavits from its own witnesses, seeking instead to force them to testify in a lawsuit that continues to surprise and bewilder.

The filing, submitted by AMCC outside legal counsel William Webster, asks Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Anderson to reconsider accepting the affidavits from Kristen Roberts and Misty Sabol – two University of South Alabama employees who took part in the AMCC’s flawed scoring process for medical cannabis licenses. 

Webster and the AMCC had previously called Sabol, Roberts and a third employee as witnesses during an Aug. 10 AMCC meeting. At that meeting, the USA employees met with commissioners while they were in executive session to answer questions about the mistakes that were made during the scoring process. 

Last week, in a court filing from attorneys representing Alabama Always – one of several cannabis companies now suing the AMCC over its flawed licensing process – presented affidavits from Sabol and Roberts. That filing was part of a lawsuit claiming the AMCC violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act at its Aug. 10 meeting by holding an improper executive session. The AMCC has argued that its executive session was legal because it held discussions of individuals’ good name, character or job performance.  

According to their affidavits, during their presentation and questioning, Sabol and Roberts were never asked to discuss the good name and character of any individuals – a key exception to the OMA requirements. Those sworn statements, made under oath by Roberts and Sabol, stand in direct contrast with comments from AMCC chairman Rex Vaughn, who said in his own sworn statement that the Commission’s discussions “impacted on” the good name and character and professional competence of the USA scorers.

“During the executive session, a number of the commissioners asked questions regarding the errors, the corrections, and the recalculated scores,” Sabol’s affidavit reads. “At no point during our presentation did we or any of the Commissioners mention the names of any individuals. The name of one applicant entity was mentioned in a question from one Commissioner who asked why that application was penalized for an exhibit. We did not discuss the general reputation, character, or professional competence of any individuals or entities.”

Judge Anderson accepted the Alabama Always motion to submit the affidavits from Sabol and Roberts. 

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But late Tuesday evening, Webster entered his filing, asking the court to reconsider and force Sabol and Roberts to instead testify so AMCC attorneys could cross-examine their own witnesses. 

The AMCC filing also appears to acknowledge, unintentionally, that it violated the OMA. While arguing to force Roberts and Sabol to testify, the filing states that forcing them to testify would make it clear that they were present for only a portion of the meeting and that individuals’ job performances were discussed in other portions. That would seemingly make the portion of the executive session attended by Sabol and Roberts illegal. 

At Wednesday’s hearing Anderson encouraged the two sides to continue working towards a solution.

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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