Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Decatur Daily. August 26, 2023.

Editorial: Botched medical marijuana rollout is the Alabama way

Alabama’s implementation of medical marijuana is going about as well as could be expected for a program the state Legislature implemented only grudgingly.

It’s not going at all.

As of Friday, the program remained on hold, and Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Anderson plans to go forward next week with a hearing on accusations that members of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission deliberated in private before selecting the companies that the state would allow to grow, distribute and sell medical cannabis.

While committee members maintain that the licensing process — which has already involved one do-over — was fair, those who did not get state medical marijuana licenses naturally disagree.

“The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy,” said Will Somerville, an attorney representing Alabama Always, which did not receive a license. “That’s not how government is supposed to work in this country.”

Yet it has been part of the medical marijuana licensing process from the start.

Marty Schelper, founder and president of the Alabama Cannabis Coalition, wants Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session of the state Legislature so lawmakers can remove the cap on the number of licenses the state can issue, clearing the way for a more upfront licensing process where companies seeking licenses merely have to meet state standards and don’t have to compete with one another for the right to do business in the state.

“That legislation picked winners and losers; it’s not free-market capitalism, it’s a monopoly,” Schelper said, referring to the 2021 bill that legalized medical cannabis in the state.

But there seems little appetite among lawmakers to revisit the legislation, nor is there any reason to think the present system, with it’s strict limits on the number of medical marijuana licenses available, is anything other than what the majority of Alabama lawmakers want.

The license limits were the price medical marijuana proponents had to pay to get medical marijuana at all in a state where the prohibitionist instinct, counter to the rest of the nation, still runs strong.

Alabama, after all, is a state that still maintains a state-run monopoly on the wholesale sales of liquor — and a chain of state-run liquor stores that compete with the private sector.

Alabama’s approach to vices is to try to outlaw them, and when that fails, to regulate them as tightly as possible and make sure the state gets a piece of the action.

“It’s not free-market capitalism,” you say? That’s because it was never meant to be.

Some Alabama companies that did not receive licenses from the state are equally upset, but their solution isn’t more licenses — just to make sure Alabama companies get a preference.

“If it’s an Alabama program, let’s keep it in Alabama because we’ve got people here that work for our state that want to see this program take off,” David Ware, who operates Green Up Corp., told Alabama Daily News. “There’s only a few of us in the state that are trying to get on the medical side, and we were anticipating flipping over from hemp to cannabis being that we’ve got an over $1 million facility, (and) already dealing with the state as far as regulations.”

Pitting companies against each other, pitting in-state companies against companies from out of state — that’s how the system the state Legislature created works, whether by accident or design. And the lack of transparency in the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s licensing process only adds to the suspicion.

END

The Associated Press