Judge Puts Brakes on Licenses for Marijuana Growers

by Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 2:33 pm   2 min read

A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Arkansas Marijuana Commission from officially issuing cultivation licenses.

The order issued Wednesday morning by Judge Wendell Griffen came in response to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Naturalis Health LLC of Little Rock, which alleged that the commission violated the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act when choosing the winners of the five available marijuana cultivation licenses.

According to the order, the company alleged that the commission's "findings, conclusions, decisions and overall process" for selecting the licensees were "arbitrary and capricious." And it alleged "discrepancies in the application and selective enforcement the Commission's rules, the Defendants' failure to uniformly apply screening to applications for tax liabilities, irregularities in scoring practices, and conflicts of interest."

More: Read the judge's order.

The complaint is one of two filed against this commission this week, and both asked the court to stop the commission from issuing the licenses. The commission has also received letters of protest from other applicants who weren't selected to run cultivation centers.

The commission was scheduled to officially award the licenses at its Wednesday meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. The commission postponed the meeting Wednesday afternoon.

"Due to the temporary restraining order entered today by Judge Griffen, the meeting of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission scheduled for 5 p.m. today has been postponed," state Department of Finance & Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said in an email. "A new meeting date will be confirmed by the Commission pending further guidance from the court."

The state Department of Finance & Administration houses the marijuana commission. Earlier Wednesday, Hardin said DF&A's legal team and the state attorney general's office was reviewing the order.

The commission announced the top applications for cultivation facilities on Feb. 27. The companies are Natural State Medicinals Cultivation in Jefferson County, Bold Team LLC in Woodruff County, Natural State Wellness Enterprises of Jackson County, Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County and Delta Medical Cannabis Company Inc. in Jackson County.

Last week, Dustin McDaniel, a former Arkansas attorney general who is now part owner of Natural State Wellness Enterprises, criticized the marijuana commission, saying it should hire an executive director.

McDaniel pointed out that the commission had rejected the idea of contracting with an outside firm to review and score of thousands of pages of cultivation center applications, a method he said would have been "standardized, uniform, objective [and] verifiable."



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