George Archos, CEO of Verano Holdings Corp. (OTC: VRNOF), penned a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey expressing the company’s commitment to the state and raising concerns over the recent scrapping of its cannabis business license.
The Chicago-based multistate operator had its hopes up in June when it was awarded a medical cannabis license in Alabama based on its application score. It immediately pledged a $40 million investment into the state. But to the firm’s chagrin, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) later decided to void and redo the licensing process, casting aside the company’s license.
In his Aug. 24 letter, Archos emphasized Alabama’s foresight in crafting a licensing process based on “fair, objective, third-party, and blind scoring metrics” to partner with top-tier operators in the cannabis industry. He notes the system’s design was aimed to exclude political influence.
“Imagine our surprise weeks later when the Commission sought to ‘void’ its June proceedings, deliberate behind closed doors, and change the result by casting aside the objective licensing system Alabama’s elected representatives created,” he wrote.
“By departing from the law, the Commission has found itself in an endless loop of licensing “do-overs.”
The controversy stems from the AMCC’s decision to reassess the licensing following the detection of application irregularities. However, a lawsuit lobbed by Verano on Aug. 21 alleges that the revised scoring actually saw Verano’s score rise, suggesting, that the reevaluation might have been a “Trojan Horse” to dismiss valid licenses and grant them to other companies without legal ground.
In addition, Always Alabama and Hornet Medicinals, two other cannabis firms, initiated their own legal battle against the AMCC. They argue that the commission violated state open records laws by making decisions in executive sessions, thus rendering recent licenses illegal, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.
AMCC intends to redo the licensing process again this Thursday, with an aim to counteract the allegations from Always Alabama and Hornet Medicinals. Yet, the entirety of the license process has hit a temporary stop due to a restraining order. A hearing is set for today in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The backdrop for all this, according to Archos’ letter, is Verano’s track record growing from a single medical cultivation license in 2014 to becoming one of the largest cannabis corporations to date. They claim to have also played a pivotal role in community revitalization in markets they participate in by repurposing abandoned superstores, generating tax revenue, and creating jobs.
“We remain ready, willing, and able to invest at least $40 million in Alabama,” Archos wrote.