Lawyers for the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission and plaintiff companies have until Jan. 19 to reach an agreement concerning limitations on a judge’s order to allow discovery in the case.
On Thursday, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Anderson ordered in the suit against the AMCC for the lawyers of both parties to potentially reach an agreement about what the discovery should be limited to. An agreement must be reached by Jan. 19 and if not then another hearing will be held on Jan. 24 to resolve the issue.
Given the discourse from the meeting Thursday though, an agreement is potentially unlikely. Last week Anderson allowed plaintiff companies to obtain depositions and seek discovery in the case. However, lawyers for the AMCC have argued that the plaintiffs are not entitled to discovery but even if the judge allows it there should be limitations on that discovery process.
AMCC’s lawyers said they received written discovery from the plaintiffs on Tuesday which they stated was broad and objectionable. According to attorney’s for the plaintiff companies the AMCC wants to limit the discovery to issues pertaining to the Open Meetings Act.
Mark Wilkerson, counsel for the AMCC, argued that the broad discovery process could interfere with the mental processes of individual commissioners if they are asked to explain their decisions for their votes regarding ranking and licensing of companies.
“We just think it’s inappropriate to be able to ask those individuals as to what were you thinking, when you made this vote,” Wilkerson said.
However, Ben Espy, attorney for Bragg Canna, responded saying that the issue was precisely what Wilkerson explained which is that the plaintiffs should understand why the commissioners made their specific decisions. Espy said that because the commission falls under the Open Meeting Act they have no deliberative process privilege and the attempts to halt discovery could be an admission of illegality.
“There is no deliberative privilege that covers this,” Espy stated. “This is an Open Meeting Act body, their deliberations should take place in public. to the extent they’re attempting to protect deliberations they’re almost admitting that there must have been deliberations in private, which would be illegal, so that I don’t see, I think it’s an enormous waste of time to try to force us into an investigative process that the commissioners themselves have made quite clear in their last vote they do not pay very much attention to.”
The AMCC lawyers also threatened to appeal to a higher court Anderson’s discretion in the order of discovery and that remains a possibility if the issue is not resolved in a manner that the AMCC is in agreement with.
A preliminary injunction hearing has been set for Feb. 28 to allow time for either the discovery process or to allow the AMCC lawyers to file their petition.