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Opinion | Latest medical marijuana legislation might just fix the whole process

A new bill from Sen. Tim Melson could fix the troubled medical marijuana licensing by doing the most basic thing: following the law.

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Sen. Tim Melson finally said out loud what everyone should know by now. 

“(The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s licensing process) is just a mess,” Melson said, as he introduced a new bill to address that mess. “This (medical marijuana program) should have been established a long time ago.” 

No one could possibly argue with any of that. 

In the history of Alabama government, while there have been some colossal screw-ups, you would be hard pressed to find a bigger one than the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. It is truly the gold standard. 

Melson’s newest legislation, SB306, would fix much of it by doing the one thing that’s left to do – remove the AMCC from any meaningful decision making. 

Melson’s bill, which passed out of committee on Wednesday, would take the primary functions of evaluating license applications – things like making sure applicants meet the most basic of requirements under the law – and hands those duties to a new panel that will be put together by the Alabama Securities Exchange Commission. 

Sources told APR on Wednesday that lawmakers and state officials have become so irritated with the actions of the AMCC – and further angered by the AMCC’s attorneys attempts to subvert any corrective actions – that the first versions of what is now Melson’s bill completely eliminated the AMCC from the licensing process, leaving it only with the duty of issuing the licenses that the Securities Exchange Commission panel awarded. 

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In the end, after some behind-the-scenes haggling, it found a small role for the AMCC to play. 

In SB306, once the ASEC panel determines which applicants meet basic requirements and demonstrate that they can meet deadlines for production, the panel will submit to the AMCC its top applicants for the five available licenses. The AMCC will grade those remaining applicants, assuming there are more than five, on a preset list of factors. Then, it will issue licenses to the top five companies. 

Basically, the AMCC will become that annoying employee everyone knows you can’t trust to do meaningful tasks, so you stick him in the back putting the TPS reports in alphabetical order. 

Honestly, I don’t know why the general public isn’t outraged by what has occurred with the AMCC. The waste. The abuse of laws. The blatant failures. The allegations of backroom dealings. 

The licensing process has been an atrocious waste of money and time. And it’s why legislation passed in 2021 has yet to see a single medical cannabis prescription filled. 

That’s a failure of Alabamian proportions. And one that affects real people suffering from real ailments. 

Melson’s bill appears to be the fix that the process needs. Will Somerville, the attorney leading the charge on the many lawsuits facing the commission over the licensing process, issued a statement on Wednesday, calling Melson’s legislation “a bill that will break the logjam and get this medicine to folks who need it.” 

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That’s the attorney for the plaintiffs praising a bill that only requires that the application process follow the law. 

That’s how screwed up this thing has been. 

Hopefully, Wednesday was the first step in correcting the many mistakes.

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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