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Opinion | Montgomery Court’s action in cannabis case may signal a brewing storm

As we watch this drama unfold, one can’t help but ponder the ramifications of this decision.

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In a recent and somewhat surprising move, Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson opened the floodgates to a potentially stormy period for those entangled in Alabama’s medical cannabis licensing saga.

The decision to allow plaintiffs, including entities like Insa Alabama, LLC and Alabama Always, LLC, to conduct depositions is more than just a procedural step; it’s a flare shot into a night sky that has been, until now, suspiciously dark.

However, William Webster, a lawyer for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, is reportedly considering challenging Judge Anderson’s order to allow depositions. Webster, in a private email — rather than through official channels — sent to Judge Anderson and other lawyers, characterized the depositions as a “fishing expedition.”

He also questioned whether the plaintiffs even had standing to bring the suit. This raises a more ominous question: What does the commission have to hide? Webster, known for inflaming previous court proceedings, seems likely to provoke the court further if he files his brief publicly.

There’s a saying in politics: one person’s plan is another’s plot. In the convoluted and often opaque world of political machinations, the simplest way to unravel a knotty situation is by following the money. This adage seems particularly pertinent in the current debacle surrounding the AMCC’s recent licensing decisions. While no direct accusations of foul play have been made, the process’s opacity and chaotic nature have raised enough eyebrows to warrant a closer look.

On Dec. 28, a hearing discussed various motions for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, laying the groundwork for the court’s latest ruling. The plaintiffs, all unsuccessful applicants for Integrated Facility licenses, have pointed fingers at the Commission, accusing it of deviating from its own scoring rules in the license awards dated December 12. Their argument hinges on the scarcity of licenses and the inefficacy of the Commission’s investigative hearing process without immediate injunctive relief.

The court’s response to these allegations has been swift and decisive. Effective immediately, the plaintiffs are allowed to conduct six depositions with just a five-day notice, and all depositions must be wrapped up by Jan. 19. This is complemented by the authorization to serve ten requests for production, ten interrogatories, and requests for admission within a week, with responses due by the same January deadline.

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This aggressive timeline, set by Judge Anderson, demonstrates a clear intent to shed light on the murky depths of this issue. The Court has recognized that the plaintiffs have a reasonable chance of success, substantiating their claims and warranting immediate injunctive relief. This includes a temporary halt on any further actions by the Commission relating to the controversial Dec. 12 awards in the Integrated Facility license category.

Each plaintiff has been asked to post a bond of $25,000, and a separate hearing will be set to address Motions for Preliminary Injunction and additional discovery requests. This ruling marks a critical juncture in the ongoing medical cannabis licensing dispute in Alabama, signifying the court’s dedication to ensuring fairness and transparency in this contentious process.

As we watch this drama unfold, one can’t help but ponder the ramifications of this decision. The court’s move, while appearing procedural, could be the harbinger of significant revelations and shifts in the medical cannabis landscape in Alabama. Those involved, especially the ones comfortable in the shadows, might now find themselves under a glaring spotlight, wrestling with the implications of a process that has suddenly become all too transparent.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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