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Arkansas Moves Forward with Medical Marijuana

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On June 21st, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen’s March decision that made medical marijuana cultivation licenses in the state unconstitutional, allowing Arkansas to make head way on its medical marijuana program.

The Supreme Court decision came from a lawsuit made by Little Rock based Naturalis Health who claimed the process for awarding cultivation licenses was not fair and the scoring system used to rank the applicants was unbalanced.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who initially opposed the medical marijuana program, was satisfied with the overruling. In a statement Hutchinson said, “The justices have not only expedited this case in the public interest but also recognized the limited role of the judiciary in reviewing discretionary decisions made by an executive branch agency.”

According to Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, told Arkansas Business, “the commission appreciated the ruling but won’t take immediate action because the court ruling won’t formally take effect for two weeks.”

In an email to Arkansas Money & PoliticsHardin clarified some of the next steps for the program to get off the ground:

“The ruling will be considered final Monday, July 9 (I said two weeks but it was actually 17 days). At that point, the Medical Marijuana Commission (MMC) may issue the five cultivation licenses. This is at the discretion of the Commission so we don’t know whether this is something the Commission will choose to do. The MMC is scheduled to meet July 12  (4 p.m.) to follow up on Monday’s meeting at which the Commission voted to proceed in hiring an independent, third party to review the 227 dispensary applications. At the July 12 meeting, Commissioners will hear from the leaders of DFA’s Procurement Division to understand what needs to take place to hire this third party. Review of dispensary applications will likely take less time through an independent, third party. With the five members of the Commission reviewing and scoring them, it would take several months due to the size (227 applications at an average of at least 500 pages each). Bringing in a third party will allow them to state in the contract the review must be complete in a certain number of days (example 45 days, etc.). The Commission can then award dispensary licenses more quickly. While an agenda is not yet available, the Commission could also choose to address cultivation applications at the July 12 meeting. There is not a requirement that the Commission meet to issue the cultivation licenses. Each of the five, highest scoring cultivation applicants has paid the $100,000 licensing fee and posted the $500,000 performance bond.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, as of July 5, 5,546 applicants have been approved for medical marijuana identification cards.

Earlier this week, an Arkansas panel approved a rule that would allow it to hire an outside consultant to help review and score hundreds of applications the state has received from businesses that want to sell medical marijuana.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission approved a rule that would allow hiring an outside consultant for reviewing the dispensary applications it has received. The panel can award 32 licenses under a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

Officials formally awarded five licenses to grow medical marijuana. The state Supreme Court last month reversed a lower court decision that had prevented Arkansas from awarding the licenses.

Cultivation licenses were awarded to the following companies:

  • Natural State Medicinals Cultivation
  • Bold Team, LLC
  • Natural State Wellness Enterprises
  • Osage Creek Cultivation
  • Delta Medical Cannabis Company, Inc.

 

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