In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the founder and king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). Hades punished him for cheating death twice by forcing him to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity. We really, really want to describe the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s (AMCC) application process as Sisyphean, but perhaps that is a bit dramatic.
Rather, it feels more like we’re stuck in a roundabout — there are multiple viable exits, but no one is quite sure which one the AMCC will take. It feels like someone has said this before, maybe it went something like: “We stand to lose all time, a thousand answers by in our hand / Next to your deeper fears, we stand surrounded by a million years.” Ok, so maybe it hasn’t been a million years. But it certainly feels like it to applicants, physicians, and (most importantly) potential patients.
Yes, we’re still here. If our math is right, it’s been 411 days since the AMCC began “[t]he application process” for medical cannabis business licenses on September 1, 2022. Unless you are a first-time reader — and in that case, welcome, we’re glad you’re here — you know this blog has been following the process closely. We recently chronicled the ongoing court battles that started soon after the initial license award on June 12, 2023. After what seemed like a months-long stalemate, we may finally have some movement. At the AMCC’s meeting last Thursday, it adopted some regulations it hopes will solve some of the issues that have plagued the application process up to this point. But before we get to the new regulations, we need to circle back.
Before “the process” officially started, the AMCC adopted a set of governing regulations in August 2022. Those regulations went into effect about a month and a half later, in mid-October. From the time applicants first received their official application forms in late October 2022 up until last Thursday, they were operating under those original regulations.
In an effort to turn things around (and avoid more litigation), the AMCC adopted some new regulations and changes to existing regulations. Last Thursday, the AMCC members present voted unanimously for:
- An emergency rule creating additional application procedures,
- An almost-identical permanent rule that is due for public comment, and
- A set of technical changes to current rules.
It’s important to note that the emergency rule and its permanent twin won’t actually have any effect unless the AMCC decides to — once again — void the license award it previously made on August 10. The next meeting on October 26 would be its first opportunity to do so. If it does so, the new rules would create new procedures for:
- Re-submitting any exhibits that existed on December 30, 2022, but which were adversely affected by the 10 megabyte file size limit on portal submissions;
- Reducing the amount of material that is redacted in each application and opening the applications for additional public comment;
- Any applicant who failed a pass/fail item to show cause why they should not have their application rejected;
- Applicants to present their application to the AMCC and advocate for themselves in person;
- Disclosing certain scoring and grading information; and
- Considering, voting on, and awarding licenses in an open meeting, which the public can attend.
The changes to existing rules are mostly minor edits with the biggest additions coming to the rule regarding administrative hearings after a license denial. Those key revisions add in procedural details governing those hearings and get rid of the requirement to pay a license fee to get a hearing.
If history is any guide, you can bet that these changes won’t cure all of the AMCC’s problems, but they may be enough for the Commission to finally make a decision and get out of this cycle. We will know more after the next AMCC meeting on October 26. Until then.