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Opinion | Legislature must act to repair flawed medical cannabis program

The biggest problem here is that the system, in its current form, is probably too broken to be repaired.

The logo of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. STOCK

The Alabama Legislature is going to have to fix the medical marijuana program that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has broken. 

It’s really that simple. 

This week, the various plaintiff companies who have filed suit against the Commission over its licensing process – a process that has been stopped and restarted twice and is now stopped for a third time – were in court to iron out with the AMCC’s attorney and a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge just how much discovery will be allowed in the case. The parties are on the verge of starting depositions and handing over various documents. 

That will be ugly. More ugly than the ugly we’ve already seen. And it’s already been plenty ugly. 

The biggest problem here is that the system, in its current form, is probably too broken to be repaired by the courts or by anyone lacking legislative power. 

No matter what happens from here on out, there will be lawsuits. And those lawsuits will almost certainly have merit. Those lawsuits will almost always hold up the process of getting this very effective drug into the hands of the very needy patients who are waiting on it. 

Stop this. 

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The legislature should do what it should have done from the start – remove the limits from integrated facility licenses and let the open market run its course. 

I understand the reasons behind limiting the licenses to five. Marijuana legalization in this state was a big change and you wanted to ensure that the state was able to handle it. You wanted to make sure the facilities could be properly monitored and regulated. You wanted to make sure this whole thing didn’t get out of hand and the good ol’ boys didn’t start going to jail, as they’re likely to do in this state whenever a new, lucrative business opportunity opens up. 

But the AMCC has killed that idea. 

They did it by completely and utterly botching the licensing process from the start – whether that’s by gross mismanagement or by purposeful sabotage of some companies, as the plaintiffs in the lawsuits keep hinting. 

I’m honestly not sure which it is. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine an agency so thoroughly screwing up a process and making such questionable, curious decisions at seemingly every turn (why wouldn’t you just go visit the applicants’ sites???), but on the other hand, this is an Alabama governmental agency. We’ve probably seen worse. 

Whatever happened, it killed the initial intent of the laws. And the only real solution at this point is to just set up regulations and requirements that must be met in order to receive a license, limit the number of licenses in certain areas, and then issue out licenses to all who meet the requirements. 

Let the free market sort them out after that. 

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Instead of wasting any more money on defending these lawsuits, spend it on regulating and policing the facilities that will be in business. 

And do it quickly. There are patients who are desperate to receive these life-changing drugs. And they can be life-changing for some, alleviating debilitating seizures and excruciating pain. For some people, marijuana, a non-addictive, mild drug, can replace opioids for pain management. That alone is worth speeding this process along. 

If the legislature doesn’t act, though, they’re going to be waiting a long, long time. And that’s the biggest travesty out of all of this.

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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