The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s effort to award licenses for medical cannabis cultivation and distribution is facing scrutiny as it prepares for today’s key meeting. Will Somerville, an attorney representing cannabis company Alabama Always LLC., penned a critical letter to the Commission’s Chair, Rex Vaughn, on Wednesday, highlighting several concerns with the application process.
“At the heart of our concerns is the flawed scoring process,” Somerville noted. He elaborated that scores from the University of South Alabama, which were used to rank applicants, did not follow proper Alabama legal protocols for adoption, such as being subject to public notice and comment.
Furthermore, the scoring system disproportionately emphasized transportation qualifications over essential components. “The emphasis on transportation, rather than the ability to cultivate cannabis, seems skewed. This might give specific applicants an undue advantage,” Somerville argued.
Another pressing issue raised is the law’s requirement for applicants to demonstrate the ability to start cultivation within 60 days of application approval. The current scoring system doesn’t evaluate this criterion. “The applicant ranked as the top contender by the University has implied they don’t even have a facility,” Somerville said, suggesting that such a company could not realistically meet the 60-day cultivation commencement timeline.
He also highlighted that the scoring system overlooks other crucial statutory demands, like facility inspections before awarding licenses and the necessity for applicants to secure a $2 million performance bond.
“These flaws in scoring make it an unreliable tool. Relying on it will only invite endless litigation from those who miss out on licenses,” the Somerville cautioned.
Somerville ended his letter by emphasizing the company’s willingness to engage in dialogue to rectify these issues. “We made suggestions to get the application process back on track,” he said, expressing disappointment at the lack of response from the Commission’s counsel.
The Commission is under additional pressure as allegations of violating the Open Meetings Act have been levied against its members. While Somerville clarified that they have no intention of seeking fines against the Commissioners, he emphasized, “Our primary goal is to ensure the process adheres to the law.”
As the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission prepares for its meeting, it remains to be seen how these concerns will influence the license awarding process. The hope of many Alabamians for prompt access to medical cannabis hangs in the balance.