Appeals court clears way for lawsuit against Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission
Appeals court clears way for lawsuit against Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission

On Friday, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals denied two motions for an administrative order filed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC). The commission sought to vacate two district court orders issued on January 3 and January 30, 2024, that allowed Alabama Always, LLC and other unsuccessful applicants to launch investigations into what AMCC attorneys call a “secret scoring system” and a host of procedural inconsistencies.

The court ruled that the Commission had not shown that it lacked adequate relief on a post-judgment appeal and that it had raised issues that the district court had not yet decided. Alabama Always was therefore permitted to proceed with testimony and the review of documents relating to the Commission’s internal operations.

Attorney Will Somerville, who represents Alabama Always, said the ruling will force AMCC to comply with the law passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Governor Ivey in 2021.

“We can now seek disclosure to determine exactly how this commission operated and disclose everything,” Somerville said. “All we’ve been trying to do for the last year or so is hold the AMCC’s practices and processes accountable.”

“It’s very simple: do what the law passed by the legislature tells you to do. It’s step by step; it’s not a complicated process. Why the AMCC has made it so complicated is absolutely beyond belief.”

RELATED: Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission opposes testimony and joins applicant’s appeal

Central to the Court’s decisions is the principle of sovereign immunity, which protects government entities like the AMCC from lawsuits. The Court affirmed that any action by a court without subject matter jurisdiction, other than dismissal of the lawsuit, is invalid. The Court found that Alabama Always’s original lawsuit, which named the AMCC as the sole defendant, did not invoke the district court’s jurisdiction because of this sovereign immunity.

Alabama Always is not the only unsuccessful applicant suing the Commission. Also suing the AMCC are Southeast Cannabis Company, TheraTrue Alabama, Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries, LLC, Jemmstone Alabama, LLC, 3 Notch Roots LLC, Pure by Sirmon Farms, Insa Alabama, LLC and several other unsuccessful applicants.

In June 2023, after the AMCC’s first attempt to issue licenses, Alabama Always filed a civil lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the AMCC. This became the “lead case” for several lawsuits against the AMCC. Alabama Always dismissed its original lawsuit in November 2023 after mediation, but reinstated the lawsuit in December 2023.

RELATED TOPICS: Mike Ball: What did we do wrong? Patients in Alabama still waiting for medical cannabis

In January 2024, the district court allowed limited discovery, which AMCC challenged with a petition for a preliminary injunction. The court’s subsequent rulings dismissed these petitions as moot, thereby reaffirming the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ordered the district court to dismiss the main case and vacate all injunctions, including those of January 3 and 30, 2024.

Alabama Always and other plaintiffs claim victory in the latest ruling. Somerville said the decision is a positive step forward in a process that is playing out in litigation. now six months after The AMCC process has been completed and awards have been given in all categories.

“The commission has had several opportunities to do it right – simply follow the law, implement the guidelines and issue the licenses to the companies that meet the requirements,” Somerville said. “Yet they continue to turn a blind eye to the law, which is absolutely unnecessary and continues to harm patients who need medical cannabis.”

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

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By Aurora