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The fight over Alabama medical cannabis licenses is headed to appeals court.
Trulieve AL, Inc., on Wednesday, filed notice of an appeal with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, stating its intention to challenge a temporary restraining order issued earlier this month by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Anderson. The restraining order has put a halt on the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s licensing process, preventing it from completing the licensing process.
Anderson issued the restraining order and also ordered depositions in the case after evidence was presented at a December hearing showing the AMCC had violated its own procedural rules when using a ranking system to vote on candidates for integrated licenses. That system effectively allowed a minority of commissioners to prevent an applicant company from receiving a license even if a majority of commissioners ranked the company highly.
However, in its appeal, Trulieve is asking the Appeals court to overturn that decision, claiming that the companies are required to first exhaust all administrative remedies before turning to the courts. Trulieve argues that the AMCC has in place an appeals process for such grievances.
In his order issuing the temporary injunction, though, Anderson specifically addressed that question, noting that the appeals process available to the plaintiffs – Alabama Always and Insa – is ineffectual because of the limited number of licenses – five – the AMCC is allowed to award under state laws. With a January 9 deadline to hand out those licenses, and no possibility of righting any wrongs after the licenses were distributed, Anderson said that it appeared that without the TRO, the plaintiffs were likely to suffer irreparable harm.
The current restraining order is the third stoppage of the AMCC’s licensing process for integrated licenses. Following the previous two, the Commission decided to start over and redo the process in order to correct specific mistakes. It seems likely that it will be heading down that path again.
In this instance, the plaintiffs not only claim that the AMCC violated its own procedural rules, they also claim that the commissioners violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by holding discussions about the applicants and the licensing process outside of public meetings. Court filings also indicate that the plaintiffs plan to depose several commissioners and AMCC executive director John McMillan to determine if improper actions were taken to give certain applicants an advantage in the process.