Dispensaries were to be named in May
by Brent Wilson
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration recently appealed a ruling by Judge Wendell Griffen to the state Supreme Court regarding the state’s medical marijuana application process. The decision by Griffen, ruled in March, halted the processes of approving applications to grow and dispense medical marijuana.
Griffen ruled the process by which the applications were being approved violated the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana.
The amendment, which was voted on by Arkansas voters in 2016, allows for the purchase and use of medical marijuana by patients with some chronic illnesses.
The DFA was in the process of reviewing applicants when the ruling by Griffen was announced. Griffen made the decision after the DFA had approved the top 5 applicants to begin growing, DFA Spokesman Scott Hardin said.
“So, we announced the results of the cultivation application reviews on Feb. 27. The top five were then to be awarded licenses to begin growing on I believe it was March 14. There was then a temporary restraining order that was issued by Judge Griffen that afternoon on [March 14] so five growers would have effectively been licensed at that point but we then postponed the meeting based on the fact that the temporary restraining order had been issued. Then, one week, later the judge declared the process by which the applications were reviewed null and void … since the judge ruled that, we couldn’t, in good faith, continue,” Hardin said.
Hardin said the commission reviewing applications stopped upon hearing the ruling.
“Immediately after the injunction was declared by Judge Griffen, the commission immediately halted review of those dispensary applications,” Hardin said.
Hardin added that the commission is waiting for further direction from court.
He also said he could not get into the specifics of the case as it is ongoing, however some of the challenges to the review process included the rule of a marijuana business being not within 3,000 feet of a school.
“There were multiple complaints,” Hardin said. “Questioning relationships among commission members and applicants – it wasn’t related to just one individual point, it was several.”
Hardin said everything now, as it stands, is dependent upon the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, he said he was told that the state Supreme Court had announced that it would need all of the briefings on the matter by May 30, which Hardin said gave an idea as to the time frame of the case, and that there may be feedback available by summertime.
Of the future of the process, Hardin said everything was “dependent upon the existing litigation.”
At the time of the ruling by Griffen, Hardin said the commission had received 95 applications for cultivation, of which the five had been approved. He said they had received 227 applications for dispensaries, of which they could approve 32 licensed businesses to be distributed throughout designated zones across the state.
Had the injunction not been issued, Hardin said, “dispensary applications would have been announced around May,” and that there had been hopes to have a dispensary actually created and functioning by fall, which he said may not happen now that the time frame has changed.
According to Hardin, if the decision is turned over in court, reviewing would return to business as usual.
“We’re just waiting at this point,” Hardin said.
Griffen was unable to comment on the case due to its ongoing nature.