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New bill seeks to put the law back in the medical weed licensing process

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, would install a new, three-step process for approving integrated licenses.

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The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission could soon lose much of its authority to grant integrated facility licenses under new legislation introduced in the Alabama Senate. 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, would install a new, three-step process for approving integrated licenses – a task that has landed the AMCC in multiple lawsuits and caused the commission to restart its licensing three times – and it would remove the AMCC from the first two steps. 

Instead, a panel appointed by the Alabama Securities Exchange Commission would be created to ensure applicants first met basic eligibility requirements, and second, determine when the applicants would be ready to cultivate and dispense product if awarded a license. Only then would applicants approved by the panel be put in front of the AMCC to be scored on the remaining criteria. 

It’s unclear if Melson’s bill, SB306, would work in tandem with a bill, SB276, that he and Sen. David Sessions introduced last week, which would expand the number of integrated licenses from five to 15, or if it replaces that bill. Attempts to reach Melson late Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful. 

SB306 also essentially removes the Alabama Department of Agriculture from the licensing process and instead puts the agency, which was assigned an oversight role in the original medical marijuana legislation, in more of a support position. The bill also would prohibit the transferring of an integrated license in any fashion. 

The flurry of legislation related to the AMCC and its troubled licensing process comes as the commission is facing multiple lawsuits from several applicant companies. Almost all of those lawsuits stemmed from the AMCC’s licensing of integrated facilities, and were brought about after the commission made a number of obvious missteps. 

SB306 would most likely solve many of the issues that resulted in litigation – primarily because it would remove the AMCC from the initial two steps and would require applicants to meet basic requirements of the laws. 

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One complaint of many of the companies that were denied licenses was that the AMCC ignored the fact that some of the companies that were awarded licenses and scored the highest had failed to meet basic requirements, such as securing a performance bond, demonstrating an ability to be operational within 60 of licensing or even securing a property to build a facility. 

APR has previously reported that one company awarded a license in the first round listed a facility location that was an empty lot. Another company awarded a license listed a warehouse that it didn’t own and had no hopes of leasing. 

Currently, only one company awarded a license in any of the three licensing attempts by the AMCC has secured a $2 million performance bond – one of the primary requirements for licensing according to the original medical marijuana legislation. 

Melson’s bill, SB306, also seeks to eliminate much of the speculation about questionable deals related to the AMCC’s licensing by requiring more specificity about ownership and who might benefit financially from each company.

The bill is set to make its first committee appearance today at 2:30, in the Senate’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

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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