Jefferson County Lands 2nd Medical Marijuana Grow Facility

A medical marijuana company that qualified last week to become one of the first five legal cannabis grow sites in Arkansas has decided to put its cultivation operation in Jefferson County. 

The decision by Natural State Wellness Enterprises, which also had an approved option of a site in Jackson County, means that the Pine Bluff region will be home to two of the five cultivation centers, according to Jefferson County Economic Development Director Caleb McMahon. 

McMahon confirmed over the weekend that he had received notice by phone and email that Natural State Wellness is coming. The company, whose public face has been investor and former state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, will be joining a similar sounding but unrelated enterprise, Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, in the area.

"We're very excited," McMahon told Arkansas Business. "This is major economic development news, and we're grateful to have two of the five facilities." 

McMahon said he expected papers to be filed making it official Monday. 

The state Medical Marijuana Commission announced the top applications for cultivation facilities, which will grow and provide cannabis for dispensaries to sell under a 2016 voter-approved measure, on Tuesday, giving each operation a week to pay a $100,000 licensing fee and post a $500,000 bond to proceed. Nearly 100 groups had applied for the five initial licenses. 

Later this year, the state panel is expected to license up to 32 dispensaries to sell the drug to thousands of Arkansans who have been approved by doctors to use it as medicine. 

The other companies approved for cultivation operations are: Bold Team LLC in Woodruff County, Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County and Delta Medical Cannabis Company Inc. in Jackson County.

More: Click here to see how the commission scored all of the applications submitted for cultivation licenses.

Natural State Wellness Enterprises had its choice of either Jefferson or Jackson counties because two of its applications were chosen among the top five, but law restricts it to operating just one facility.

"We appreciate that it is a public trust that has been placed upon our company to produce quality, safe, and legal medicine to Arkansas patients," McDaniel told The Associated Press. 

McDaniel, who is also an attorney and lobbyist for the company, said last week that construction would begin shortly after the site was determined.

Delta Medical Cannabis will be putting its grow site in a property it has under contract in Newport. It expects the facility to be up and running by the end of this year or early 2019.

"We're building a state-of-the-art facility from the ground up," said Donald Parker, an owner and attorney of the company.

The state received 95 applications for cultivation facilities. The applications were scored by each of the five commissioners on several factors, including business experience, qualifications and finances. The commission will meet March 14 to formally award licenses to companies that complied with the requirements.