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Editorial Roundup: Alabama | National Post

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Decatur Daily. April 13, 2024.

Editorial: Medical marijuana goes back to square one

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Medical marijuana is legal in some form in 38 states, and recreational marijuana is legal in 24 states.

Yet somehow Alabama can’t do what most other states have done.

The state board charged with issuing licenses to businesses seeking to grow, distribute and sell medical marijuana products is buried under litigation from parties charging that the board’s process is biased and unfair.

As a result, while the state has approved licenses for businesses that engage in just one of the three steps — growing, distributing or retail sales — it has been unable to issue licenses for so-called integrated facilities, which are those that engage in all three. Those are the licenses that are most in demand. Without them, Alabama’s medical marijuana system is stuck, and people who could benefit from medical marijuana products are left to suffer needlessly.

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State Sen. Tom Melson, R-Florence, has seen enough. Melson has been one of the prime supporters of medical marijuana in the state Legislature, and he’s now introduced a bill he says would expedite the rollout of medical marijuana in the state.

“It’s taken this long to get this to the patients who are out there that need it, and it’s just time to correct this course and get them something to help them in their illness,” Melson said this week.

Melson’s bill would impact only the awarding of integrated licenses. The rest would remain unchanged.

Under his bill, before the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission could award integrated licenses, the Alabama Securities Commission would determine whether applicants actually meet the necessary criteria. The AMCC would then score those remaining to determine which five companies are awarded integrated facilities licenses.

All integrated licenses already awarded would be tossed out, and the Alabama Securities Commission would start over, almost from square one, from among the businesses that have already applied for licenses.

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“The (Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission) had one mission, and they have not executed it,” Melson said. “I think in the best interest of this program, we need to start from scratch, we need to throw (out) every license applicant that received (a license). This bill just wipes the slate clean.”

In Melson’s estimation, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission had one job, and it blew it. He said the Alabama Securities Commission will be more successful because there is less bias there.

Well, maybe. But it’s not just the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission that blew it. The state Legislature deserves the lion’s share of the blame for not simply laying out a simple licensing process in the first place.

If medical marijuana is a good thing — and we think it is — then it should be a simple process to set up minimum standards and then license any business that meets them. But the process the state has now — and will have even with the Alabama Securities Commission in charge of it — treats the right to sell medical marijuana products as a political favor to be dispensed. It’s a zero-sum game, with winners and losers. The best that can be said for it is it’s better than the alternative offered by lawmakers like state Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, which is no medical marijuana at all.

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The botched implementation of Alabama’s medical marijuana law also looms like a warning sign over prospects for legalized gambling in the state.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed bills — now in a conference committee — that would set up a state lottery, allow casinos, sports betting and entering into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to allow full-service casinos on tribal property. Regulatory bodies created under the legislation would decide who gets to run a casino and exactly where.

And if this sounds like something that could go just as sideways as the awarding of integrated medical marijuana licenses, that’s because it is.

There is a simpler way, but that is not the Alabama way.

The Issue State Sen. Tim Melson has introduced legislation that would essentially have the state take a mulligan on the issuing of its most desired medical marijuana licenses.


Cullman Times. April 10, 2024.

Editorial: Open government is the law

Open government is the law.

Alabama’s Secretary of State Wes Allen says that “the new Open Meetings Act, which replaces the old ‘Sunshine Law,’ provides (the public) with greater access to your state and local government. This law guarantees that Alabama’s citizens have open access to agencies, boards, commissions and other governmental bodies which conduct the people’s business.”

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In fact, you can find that statement and more at the home of Alabama’s Open Meeting Act website at

And we could not agree more.

It does not matter, however, if local officials agree or disagree with the fundamental principles of open government because it’s the law.

County commissioners, members of city councils, members of the boards of education and everyone who sits on local government committees, commissions, boards and authorities must realize all the government business they do is the people’s business.

The public has the right to know all of its own business.

The documents held in the halls of government belong to the public, not to public officials.

The public has a vested interest in government transparency. Being able to attend public meetings, hearing all deliberations of the public’s business is critical to being able to hold government accountable.

Access to public records, including financial records, is just as critical.

Open government laws do not exist to protect and assist the media. Sunshine laws exist to protect the public.

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A government of, by and for the people must always be out in front of the people.

While there are narrow exceptions to open meetings and open records laws, those exceptions should never become the rule or the standard.

All exceptions should be interpreted as narrowly as possible.

Lawmakers have said unequivocally that when there is a question about whether a record is a public record or if a meeting should be an open public meeting, there should always be a strong presumption for openness.

So, if local officials are ever in doubt regarding whether something can be discussed in executive session, they should opt for open rather than closed.

If they doubt whether or not a requested record should be made available to someone who requests it, they should grant rather than deny the request.

If they are going to err in one direction or the other, it is always best to err on the side of openness.

If elected officials were to discuss something in good faith in an open public meeting that could have been discussed behind closed doors, they would not have violated any state law by doing so.

If a records custodian, in good faith, provides a record that could have been exempted under the public records law and did not disclose personal private information, anything to do with national security or proprietary trade secrets, they will not be held legally accountable for having done so.

Concealing the public’s business is not only a violation of the law, it is a violation of the public trust.

It is a shame that state laws are even needed to tell local government officials they have to do what they should just do naturally, viz. keep the public’s business public.


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