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Alabama’s medical cannabis industry faces continued delay from unsuccessful applicants

As a result of the most recent lawsuits and motions filed in Montgomery Circuit Court by unsuccessful business applicants, the process of getting an official medical cannabis operation up and running in Alabama will be delayed at least another five weeks. 

Legal challenges to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s licensing awards have been spearheaded by unsuccessful applicants for “Integrated Facility Licenses.” Under the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, Integrated Facility Licenses permit a total of five individual businesses to engage in every aspect of the medical cannabis industry, from planting the seeds to prescribing the final product to patients. 

Unsuccessful applicants Southeast Cannabis Company, TheraTrue, Jemmstone, Alabama Always, Insa, and Bragg Canna, have all filed multiple lawsuits against the Commission, and have all now sued the Commissioners themselves.

The unsuccessful applicants have raised several claims over the past ten months, primarily accusing the Commission of failing to comply with the Compassion Act and the Commission’s own regulations.

RELATED: Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission fights back against deposition demands, joins applicant’s appeal

Their assertions that the Commission failed to follow its own regulations when awarding licenses in December 2023 resulted in the court entering an order prohibiting the Commission from moving forward with the licensure process in any way. 

The Commission and one successful Integrated Facility Applicant, Trulieve Alabama, have moved to dismiss all of the pending the lawsuits in the hopes of moving the process along. 

The Commission has argued that the original lawsuits against it are “void” because of the Alabama Constitution’s provision of “sovereign immunity” to state agencies like the Commission. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that prevents individuals or companies from suing the State or its agencies directly.

Plaintiffs can often easily get around sovereign immunity by naming state officers themselves, rather than the State or the agency.

RELATED: Most medical marijuana licenses expected to be issued

Most, if not all, of the unsuccessful companies did not name the Commissioners themselves in their original suits, the Commission argues. Consequently, the Commission says that those lawsuits should be dismissed and that the Court’s order preventing it from taking action in the licensure process should be dissolved, too. 

Last week, the unsuccessful applicants filed new lawsuits raising the same claims that they had already raised because of sovereign-immunity challenges to their original, still-pending lawsuits.

The unsuccessful applicants assert that their new lawsuits are merely a “protective” measure. But the Commission and Trulieve Alabama have argued that “duplicative” lawsuits are clearly not permitted under Alabama law and must be dismissed as well.  

At the latest hearing on March 11, the unsuccessful applicants asked for an extended briefing schedule on the various motions to dismiss to accommodate an upcoming spring break for Alabama schools.

RELATED: Settlement reached in Alabama medical cannabis lawsuits

The unsuccessful applicants’ request for a longer-than-typical briefing timeline delays the Court’s ability to rule on the pending motions for at least five more weeks. 

In addition to the lawsuits pending in the Montgomery Circuit Court, multiple orders from the Circuit Court have been challenged in the Court of Civil Appeals, which has been ordering briefing on a more expedited basis. However, the unsuccessful applicants’ moves in the Circuit Court have caused the pending appeals to be put on the back-burner. 

The Legislature passed the Compassion Act in 2021. Almost three years later, Alabama’s medical cannabis program has not left the cradle. Lawsuits from Southeast Cannabis Company, TheraTrue, Jemmstone, Alabama Always, Insa, 3 Notch and Bragg Canna have slowed the process down and stalled the beginning of production, which was planned to begin last summer.

With the exception of Tennessee, all of Alabama’s neighboring states have medical cannabis programs up and running.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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