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Opinion | For delays in medical marijuana process, blame the appropriate people

The delays in medical marijuana availability aren’t because of lawsuits, but the violations of laws those lawsuits target.

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There was an odd press conference in Montgomery on Wednesday. 

That’s not exactly uncommon for that town, where strange press events are the norm. But this one, even for Montgomery, was weirder than usual. 

It was hosted by a group named Patients Coalition for Medical Cannabis, which seems innocent enough. But a bit late to the game. I mean, we passed medical cannabis laws back in 2021. Odd that an advocacy group for a thing that’s already been approved would be formed now. 

But, nevertheless, here they are. And they held a press conference on Wednesday to “sound the alarm on the continued lack of availability” of medical cannabis. Which, also, is fair. As we’ve written in APR a number of times now, we’re more than three years since the law was passed and we still don’t have product going out to patients. 

So, we’re good so far. Good group name. Good group goal. 

And then Mike Ball picked up a guitar. And some guys from Louisiana and Mississippi started talking about the wondrous benefits of medical marijuana, as though medical marijuana isn’t legal here yet. 

About 45 minutes into the … press conference? … I wasn’t sure exactly what the point was or why this was all going on. Because, again, as much as I agree that medical marijuana (and marijuana in general) should be legalized to help people, it already is. And as surprised as I was that Ball, a former state representative, was not a bad guitar player and singer, I’m not sure what it added. 

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The purpose, at least from what I could tell from a few comments in between all of the other stuff, was to say that legal action over the botched awarding of licenses by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission is the true roadblock in getting product to the people who really need it. 

Which is a bit like blaming the first responders working a drunk driving crash for the resulting traffic jam. 

The lawsuits aren’t the problem. It’s the focus of those lawsuits – the ridiculously botched licensing process that broke laws, ignored rules and granted advantages to some companies over others – that’s the underlying cause of the holdups. 

The simple fact here is that none of the lawsuits filed by companies who weren’t awarded licenses would have been successful past the initial filings if there weren’t true problems with the licensing process. In fact, the AMCC has admitted twice to botching the process. 

The lawsuits have asked only that the court review whether or not the AMCC followed the laws in awarding the licenses. And each time, the answer has pretty clearly been that, no, it had not. 

We’re not talking about complicated, in-the-weeds things here. For example, according to the laws passed by the legislature, which govern the licensing process, any successful applicant must secure a $2 million performance bond. 

Only one company awarded a license by the AMCC has secured such a bond. One. 

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There are other, similar problems. And that doesn’t even get us into the trouble with the absurd grading system or the complete failure to follow the Alabama Open Meetings Act. 

None of those things were brought up at Wednesday’s press conference. Instead, a couple of people just arbitrarily blamed the legal action for the delays and used the suffering of patients as a means of applying pressure to Montgomery Circuit Court Judge James Anderson to … well, I don’t really know what they expect a decent judge to do. Just toss out valid legal claims? Let a government agency go unchecked by the laws of the state? 

I hate that people are suffering when there’s a product that could help. I hate that we took so long to legalize this safe and effective medicine. I hate that the process has been so thoroughly botched and undermined by incompetence and, I suspect, corruption on some level. 

But these laws and rules were put in place for a reason – to ensure that Alabama had a sustainable, reliable system that could provide a safe product to these patients. That should still be the goal.

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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