Despite lawmakers’ efforts this year to revive the rollout of Georgia’s medical cannabis program, the licensing process has largely stalled due to challenges brought by unsuccessful applicants.
Now, a medical cannabis company that was not granted a license has sued the state’s regulators, alleging that the licensing process was marred by “conflict of interest,” according to a local FOX 5 report.
The lawsuit, filed by Cumberland Curative against the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, claims that the licenses were “bought and sold through closed door politics and back room deals,” the news outlet reported.
"If there is no wrongdoing or corruption, then why not turn these applications, evaluation sheets, etc. over to the public?" Cumberland Curative President Charlie Arnold told FOX 5.
Cumberland Curative filed its lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court, alleging that the scoring of the applications was “clouded by substantial conflict of interest,” according to the news outlet.
"We heard in December of 2020, before the applications were submitted, directly from high up, public officials in both Democrat and Republican Party, that four of the six licenses are spoken for," Arnold told FOX 5.
Since 2015, Georgia’s registered patients can legally possess cannabis oil containing a maximum of 5% THC, but they have no way to legally purchase the oil, which has yet to be produced and sold in the state.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation in 2019 to establish a regulatory framework for the production, processing and sale of medical cannabis oil in the state, and the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission licensed six companies in July 2021 to serve the market.
Sixteen unsuccessful applicants then challenged the licensing process, which has since stalled the rollout of the program.
Legislation aimed at jumpstarting the program gained traction in the Georgia Legislature this year as lawmakers attempted to find a legislative solution.
A proposal approved by the House would have restarted the state’s medical cannabis licensing process, throwing out the six licenses that were tentatively awarded last year.
The measure approved by the Senate would have given the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission a May 31 deadline to license six companies that had previously applied for licenses, but not necessarily the six companies that were tentatively awarded licenses.
A conference committee made up of members of both legislative chambers then formed a compromise proposal, which would have reopened the application process to license three more companies in addition to the original six.
That legislation ultimately stalled earlier this month, at the end of this year’s legislative session.
Meanwhile, thousands of pages of winning bids have been redacted and kept confidential from losing applicants and the public, FOX 5 reported.
The scoring of those applications, which was conducted by politically appointed commissioners, has also been kept confidential, according to the news outlet.
Cumberland Curative’s lawsuit argues that that the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission cannot legally keep the winning bids and the evaluations secret, FOX 5 reported.
The lawsuit claims that since the state has released a notice of intent to award licenses, all key documents should be publicly available, according to the news outlet.
"For the public not to know who these teams are and how they are going to be producing medicine, is preposterous," Arnold told FOX 5.