The state of Alabama recently reissued its first round of medical cannabis licenses, a process that had been delayed due to a scoring controversy.
In June, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) first awarded 21 licenses but called into question the original scoring method used in selecting the recipients. As a result, the commission was forced to reissue the licenses, which ended up causing a delay in launching the state’s medical cannabis program.
Of the original 21 licenses issued, 19 were reissued to the same companies. Verano was the only company not receiving a license in the second round of voting, despite being approved the first time.
Reissuing these licenses has raised concerns about trust and transparency in the process, especially considering there is only one licensed testing lab in the state. Could this raise questions as to whether corruption or pay-for-play test results are possible?
Recalculation and Re-application of Licenses
The reason for the second round of applications is mainly human error, per the Alabama Reflector.
Lynne Chronister, the University of South Alabama’s vice president for research and economic development, and Kristen Roberts, the university’s financial officer, addressed the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) and said the process was riddled with human errors.
According to Chronister and Roberts, an evaluator entered a score for an integrated facility application twice. That led to wrong scores for applications that fell below the duplicate score.
“As we were summing and averaging those applicants’ scores, it was picking up the wrong two numbers,” said Roberts.
The officials also said there were other errors on data entry, as well as applying the wrong weight to scores; incorrectly averaging scores from evaluators, and A mismatch between the score USA evaluators used to score written assessments.
The second application period follows the saga of appointing a new Chair to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC), which is responsible for the medical cannabis program in Alabama. Dr. Steven Stokes resigned following a lawsuit that alleged Stokes could not serve on the AMCC commission.
The suit alleged that state law prohibited any AMCC member from being a “current public official.” At the time of his appointment in July 2023, Stokes was a trustee for the University of South Alabama.
The AMCC elected Rex Vaughn as the new chair and Sam Blakemore as the new vice chair following the resignation.
The second round of licenses awarded via AL.com
Integrated facility (can cultivate, process, transport, and dispense medical cannabis and can have up to five dispensaries): Flowerwood Medical Cannabis; Southeast Cannabis Company; Sustainable Alabama; TheraTrue Alabama; and Insa Alabama.
Verano, Alabama, which was awarded a license back on June 12, was not awarded one. The licenses awarded on June 12 were never issued by the AMCC.
Cultivator: Four companies that were awarded licenses on June 12 were awarded again — Blackberry Farms; Gulf Shore Remedies; Pure by Sirmon Farms; and Twisted Herb Cultivation.
The AMCC awarded three additional cultivator licenses to I Am Farms; Greenway Botanicals; and CRC of Alabama.
Processor: The same four companies that were awarded on June 12 — 1819 Labs; Enchanted Green; Jasper Development Group, Inc.; and Organic Harvest Lab.
Dispensers: The same four companies that were awarded on June 12 — CCS of Alabama; RJK Holdings AL: Statewide Property Holdings AL: and Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries.
Transporter: Two of the three companies awarded on June 12 were awarded again — International Communication; and Tyler Van Lines. A third license went to XLCR Inc.
Alabama Secure Transport, which was awarded a license on June 12, was not awarded one on Thursday.
Testing lab: Certus Laboratories was awarded a license, as it had been on June 12. It was again the only testing lab awarded a license.
Trust and Transparency Concerns Surrounding the Process
Despite the re-issuance of these licenses, there are still lingering trust and transparency issues surrounding the process. Some could be concerned that having only one licensed testing lab in the state, Certus Laboratories is a red flag for possible corruption or pay-for-play test results.
The fact that Verano was not awarded a license the second time around also raises questions about whether there may have been some bias or favoritism in the scoring process. This further undermines trust in the system and makes it hard to convince citizens that cannabis is safe when seemingly irregularities exist.
It remains to be seen whether these issues can be addressed and if the Alabama medical cannabis program will launch on time. The delayed rollout of licenses has already led to setbacks, so restoring trust and transparency is paramount for those needing access to medical cannabis.
The re-issuance of the licenses may have been necessary, but it certainly has raised many questions about the process and how it can be improved going forward. More oversight and accountability are needed to ensure fairness in awarding medical cannabis licenses in Alabama.
Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!