stuck in the weeds

Alabama May Toss Out Medical Marijuana Licenses For the Fourth Time Since 2021

For the last three years, residents in Alabama have been waiting for medical marijuana to become established. But unfortunately, Alabama is a state where progress on the cannabis frontier goes to die. A new bill proposes to revoke licenses and force businesses to reapply for the fourth time since Alabama took its first hesitant steps toward legalizing medical marijuana in 2021.

The bureaucratic circus continues, leaving potential patients waiting on the sidelines for the state to get on board and get moving. Sales were promised by 2024, and plain incompetence is holding everything back. Let’s zoom in on the courtroom drama: lawsuits, inconsistencies, and allegations have turned the licensing process into a tragic comedy. And the audience? Patients in dire need of relief left waiting in the wings.

The first attempt to award licenses was thrown out after some scoring discrepancies, then a few months later, in the second round, applicants who didn’t get a license after receiving one in the first round filed lawsuits. In the third round, they were blocked by a judge who believed those scoring methods could be invalid yet again.

It’s a tale as old as time: promise, delay, disappointment— wash, rinse, repeat.

This brings us to the proposed bill that aims to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and try again. Republican State Senator Tim Melson proposed Senate Bill 306, which seeks to pull the licenses issued by the bumbling Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) and start from square one. Like many residents in Alabama, he’s frustrated with the AMCC’s inability to manage the simplest element of the entire medical program— to award licenses without getting sued.

Stuck in the weeds

“The commission had one mission, and they have not executed it,” he said. SB 306 aims to hit the reset button and do it the right way this time around. As it stands, Alabama will only award 12 cultivation licenses, four processing licenses, four dispensary licenses, and five vertical integration licenses that would allow those businesses to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis in-house. However, only the five integrated licenses would be snatched away again should SB 306 be signed into law.

But that in itself is a problem, too. A huge reason many of the lawsuits came to light after the second round came from jilted business owners. The reality for businesses is that applying for a license, jumping through all of the hoops, paying excessive fees, and then having the rug yanked from under them isn’t a good feeling. This reality for businesses in Alabama is likely to cause an upset and a slew of lawsuits again should Alabama take this bill and run with it.

However, the good news is that this bill would abandon the AMCC and its poor track record. It would relegate their powers to the sidelines and hand the reins to the Alabama Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Today, SB 306 has cleared another hurdle and is gaining traction, but the journey is far from over. Will it be the cure to Alabama’s cannabis catastrophe, or just another footnote in this sorry story?

The AMCC’s missteps have cost taxpayers millions, delayed relief for suffering patients, and turned a beacon of hope into the punchline of a joke. SB 306 may be the silver bullet, but we’re not really holding our breath. After all, in Alabama, even progress comes with a dose of skepticism, and the time it would take to overhaul the program for a fourth time will continue dragging the story out.

In the meantime, we have no idea what the future of medical marijuana in Alabama looks like or when we can even expect it. But SB 306 is the underdog in this high-stakes game, and if it cuts through the red tape, it may defy the odds and deliver what the people deserve: a functioning medical marijuana program. It’s time for Alabama to blaze a trail instead of getting lost in the smoke, and it’s nice to hear that someone is taking it seriously.

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