Cannabis licensing on hold in Alabama
Published 10:15 pm Sunday, July 16, 2023
The Butler County Commission passed a resolution on July 12, 2022 permitting the cultivation, processing, and distribution of medical marijuana in the county. One year later, however, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has placed the issuing of licenses in a chokehold, issuing a stay in moving forward with licensure.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC), a group response for the issuance of medical cannabis licenses, voted June 16 to stay, or halt, any further proceedings related to the awarding of medical cannabis business licensing in the state.
According to the AMCC website, the commission awarded 21 out of 90 applicants six types of medical cannabis business licenses on June 12, which included integrated facility, cultivator, processor, dispensary, secure transport, and state testing laboratory licenses. Since then, complaints and litigations have followed from qualified applicants that have not been awarded licenses, causing AMCC to halt the issuing of licenses to the qualified applicants.
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Butler County Commissioner Allin Whittle expressed his thoughts about the issue.
“If prescribed by a doctor, I am all for the usage of medical marijuana,” he said. “I think it has the capacity to help a lot of sick people. It can be done safely and effectively.”
Whittle also said, as far as the business licenses are concerned, he doesn’t know. Those are legal matters, he explained.
The complaints AMCC received cite inconsistencies in the scoring of applicants. A lawsuit filed in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, by Alabama Always, LLC, a company who was not awarded, alleges AMCC had already acknowledged flaws in their process.
The lawsuit suggests that AMCC used third party evaluators from the University of South Alabama, and is not acting fairly in the issuance of licenses. The company complained that it has spent 4.5 million dollars on its facility in west Montgomery to grow cannabis, and also plans to operate several dispensaries throughout the state.
In response, according to its website, AMCC will seek an independent review, citing a mathematical error in the tabulations during the scoring process. Once the stay is lifted, the Commission will reconsider the award of licenses, and provide a timeline for the payment of the license fee, request for investigative hearings, and the issuance of licenses.
According to Butler County Commissioner Darrell Sanders, the commission voted 3-1 at the meeting back in 2022, in favor of allowing the cannabis industry to set up shop in the county. Commissioners Rebecca Butts, Joey Peavy, and Allin Whittle all said yes to the resolution, which today is no more than an idea. Commissioner Darrell Sanders cast his vote against the resolution, and Commissioner Jesse McWilliams was not in attendance at the meeting.
According to Sanders, Butler County is one among only five out of 67 counties in the state of Alabama that passed this kind of resolution. While businesses like Twisted Herb Cultivation, LLC and Alabama Always, LLC are named among businesses that cultivate or process medical cannabis, none have been given the “go ahead” to operate. The application fee alone for a license is $2,500 and the cost for a business license to properly function is $50,000. The problem is finding out who is legally, and morally functioning under state laws.
Sanders said he voted against the issue, because he feels it will lead to more recreational use. He said he was disappointed in the vote, and wished the citizens of Butler County could have voted.
So, for now, no one has permission to grow or sell cannabis in Alabama.
Local official, and pastor, Allen Stephenson, said he knows the power of medicine and prayer. He said that the benefits of medical cannabis far outweigh the bad.
“There are a lot of people in pain,” he said. “I am all for helping people to feel better, and medical marijuana can help with that. If it’s prescribed by a doctor, I see nothing wrong with it.”
For now, the cannabis industry awaits a decision to lift the stay. For more information, visit the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s website at amcc.alabama.gov