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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In the latest lawsuit filed against the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, Verano Alabama – which was initially awarded a license to grow and sell medical marijuana before the commission voided the decision – filed suit against the state in Montgomery Circuit Court.

In the lawsuit, Verano argued that nowhere in the statute that created the commission did lawmakers grant the authority for members to void decisions, and thus, the initial round of license awards should be reinstated.

“We have reviewed all relevant rules of law and regulation, and the term ‘void’ does not appear anywhere – it is a made-up concept,” James Leventis, who represents Verano, told Alabama Daily News Tuesday. “To put it bluntly, you can’t simply void license awards as they attempted to do.”

The AMCC first awarded licenses in June to 21 companies based on scoring data tabulated by independent evaluators, with Verano being among the five that were awarded integrated facilities licenses. Just days later, however, the commission discovered tabulation errors in the scoring data, and in early August, voted to void the initial awards.

During that same August meeting, the commission voted again to award licenses, this time awarding them to 24 companies. Verano was just one of two companies awarded a license the first round that was not reissued a license.

“These tabulation errors were a bit of a trojan horse to redo the process, and I think we’re a good test case for that,” Leventis said. 

“What is interesting is that after (the scoring was redone), our score went up 16 points. Today, as it stands, Verano Alabama is still – based on an objective, third-party reviewer – determined for the second time now as the most suitable applicant to get this program launched in the state of Alabama.”

This latest lawsuit is part of a flurry of litigation against the commission, including one that alleged the commission violated Alabama’s Open Meetings Act by deliberating in secret. Filed by Alabama Always, that lawsuit asks the court for a complete do-over, something at odds with the relief sought by Leventis on behalf of Verano.

“We’re simply seeking to reset things to where they legally stood June 12 when valid, final awards of licenses were made,” Leventis said.

While companies continue to target the commission with allegations of improper procedures, some, like former Alabama Rep. Mike Ball, who played a key role in medical marijuana’s legalization in the state, told ADN that he believed the commission was “doing the best they can.”

Sam Blakemore, vice chair of the commission, previously told ADN that his primary goal remains getting medical marijuana into the hands of patients, and that he would support any path that most quickly leads to that outcome.

Leventis told ADN that he believed Verano’s remedy – that the commission stick with its initial license award selection – would accomplish Blakemore’s goal of getting medical marijuana to patients as quickly as possible, and that any alternative could lead to potentially months or years of continued delays.

“The ideal outcome for us would be to reset things to where they belong and let the appropriate process take place, and most importantly, let this program launch because patients right now are not getting their medicine,” Leventis said. 

“I worry that if the court doesn’t step in, or the commission doesn’t do this on its own accord, we’re potentially looking at months and years of litigation, slowing this program to the detriment of the patients of Alabama.”

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