Marijuana Dispensaries Zoned to the Letter of the Law

Marijuana Dispensaries Zoned to the Letter of the Law
At top, Herbology's original signage at 7303 Kanis Road in Little Rock is shown from last October. The property's new toned-down displays, installed last week, are shown in the bottom image. (Tre Baker)

Putting in a medical marijuana dispensary in Arkansas is a game of inches, or at least feet.

From off-limits zones near schools and churches to the signs on their buildings, dispensaries face a maze of precise regulations.

Herbology, which expected to be the first dispensary to open in Little Rock, blew past a predicted November grand opening date after a preliminary look by state inspectors pointed out some infractions.

The most obvious was a too-large sign above the door.

Workers with Arkansas Sign & Neon Co. were putting up a more modest sign Wednesday, in block letters covering less than the maximum area allowed, 36 square feet. “It is not the size of the letters but the overall size of the sign that is limited,” state spokesman Scott Hardin explained.

State rules allow just three dispensary signs visible to the public, and beyond the size limit, they cannot include content aimed at children, including cartoon characters or toys. They also must be free of emblems related to medicine or pharmacy, including a caduceus or crosses of any color.

The Herbology site, the former Joubert’s Tavern building at 7303 Kanis Road, was recently sold, giving the dispensary a new landlord. According to a Dec. 26 notification to state officials, NewLake Capital Partners Inc. of Maryland purchased the property from GR Properties AR Little Rock LLC. NewLake was formed last year to acquire “specialized industrial and retail properties to be leased to state-licensed cannabis operators.”

The sale also followed news in August that Grassroots Cannabis, the Chicago company behind the Herbology brand, was in an $857 million deal to be acquired by Curaleaf Holdings of Wakefield, Massachusetts. That acquisition still requires final approval.

Now facing a February opening in Little Rock, Herbology — the brand used by Grassroots OpCo AR LLC — is in a race to open against Harvest House of Cannabis just down the street at 900 Rodney Parham Road.

Harvest House has completed a new building and parking lot on the site, and on Wednesday contractors from Dallas were applying dark film to the windows to comply with state rules.

Hardin said the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which oversees commercial aspects of the legal cannabis program, received an inspection request from Harvest House on Wednesday.

“We understand the dispensary would like to open in late January or early February,” Hardin said. “We anticipate the inspection will be scheduled for early next week.”

Alex Howe, head of corporate communications for Harvest Health & Recreation of Tempe, Arizona, the national affiliate of the Little Rock dispensary, told Whispers that it is “moving toward serving Arkansas patients” pending local and state approval, and had “requested inspections.”

As of midday Thursday, Hardin said, Herbology had not requested a final inspection.

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