New private entity tasked with reviewing prospective medical cannabis businesses

Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 7:46 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission held its first meeting since it decided to pause and void the business license awards process. The commission found inconsistencies in the data and now faces multiple lawsuits over the ethics of the application process.

The accounting firm KMPG will now review the business license applications. This comes after the original scores were done by anonymous graders hired by the University of South Alabama. Some commission members say the outsourcing of the grading is the problem.

“Before I accept the comments from the external reviewers, I would like to know who they are,” said commission member Jerzy Szaflarski.

Multiple commission members recommended stopping the external review of the applications and require the commission to review and score the applications themselves.

“That is our job to protect the integrity of the process, to get this product to the people of this state,” said member Loree Skelton.

The commission voted to keep the review external, citing a lack of individual knowledge in some of the grading categories.

“Do you feel qualified, I know I don’t, to look at every one of those areas and make that informed decision?” said member Deight Gamble.

“I feel that it is my responsibility to look at the information that is provided, determine what it was based on, to see what criteria they used,” said Skelton.

Commission Chairman Steve Stokes says he and other members have relationships with the applicants.

“I know at least four or five of these are these applicants. They’re all good people and good businesspeople, and if I’m asked to select them, I’m going to choose them because I know. And so that’s what we’re trying to do is take the bias out of commission and make it independent,” said Stokes.

Ray French operates a hemp company and was denied a business license. He believes they should choose companies that are prepared.

“It’s going take a while for these other people to get operational because we know how hard it is to go through the permitting process to be evaluated by the state regulators,” said French.

“Everybody who’s involved in this thinks there’s going to be a lot of money to be made in this, so let’s don’t feel sorry for the people about not getting as much money as they think they’re going to get. Let’s talk about the patients, the cancer patients, the children with seizures, the people who need this medication,” said Stokes.

The plan is for new licenses to be awarded on Aug. 10.

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