Alabama vows 2024 medical marijuana launch despite latest legal obstacle

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Alabama regulators ended 2023 with a promise that the first legal sale of medical marijuana will happen sometime in 2024.

But MMJ sales in the state cannot begin until dispensary licenses are issued, a process that an Alabama circuit judge temporarily blocked last Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Alabama legalized medical marijuana in 2021, but a series of challenges to how the state judged license applications and awarded permits have kept MMJ businesses and patients waiting.

After two earlier attempts to award permits were thwarted, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) issued 20 licenses on Dec. 1, including four dispensary permits.

That prompted a lawsuit by Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries, which was awarded a permit in the first two aborted licensing rounds but then was rejected in the third go-round.

Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson on Friday blocked the state from issuing the dispensary permits until a court hears Yellowhammer’s legal challenge.

Patrick Dungan, an attorney for Yellowhammer, told the Associated Press that the company is “only looking for a fair opportunity to be heard on how we were denied a license after achieving the second-highest score and being awarded a license twice.”

On Dec. 12, the state awarded five integrated licenses, contingent on the winners meeting a deadline to pay the $2,500 license application fee and $50,000 annual permit fee.

The Dec. 1 and Dec. 12 licensing rounds prompted an encouraging motion from the AMCC on Dec. 28.

“We’d like to move forward with these people, the slate of awards that we’ve had in the month of December, and just get this show on the road so the people can get their medicine,” Commissioner Sam Blakemore said during the meeting, according to the AP.