A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge has extended a temporary restraining order that prevents the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing the state’s remaining dispensary licenses.
On March 4, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray said in a filing that the temporary restraining order will be in place until a hearing on a preliminary injunction could be held. A date for the hearing had not been set as of Thursday morning.
If you recall, Absolute Essence LLC, a Little Rock Black-owned business, sued the MMC, the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration and the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration in January. Absolute Essence’s application for a dispensary license should have received a top score but didn’t because of a discriminatory application process, it alleged in filings.
It wanted a fair vetting process free of racial bias in medical marijuana licensing, according to the 45-page suit filed by attorney Matt Simmons of Rockville, Maryland. The company is also represented by Erin Cassinelli of Lassiter & Cassinelli of Little Rock and Timothy Giattina of Hodge Calhoun Giattina of Little Rock.
On Feb. 1, Gray issued a temporary restraining order set to expire on Feb. 15 — if it wasn’t extended. But Gray asked during a Feb. 8 proceeding if any of the parties objected to the TRO being extended until the preliminary injunction hearing could be heard, and none did, according to Absolute Essence’s filing. Gray’s decision, however, was never entered as a written order.
At a March 3 MMC meeting, Assistant Attorney General Sara Farris told the commission that the court’s temporary restraining order had expired on Feb. 15. “And the MMC is free to go forward with its rules,” she said.
After watching the commission’s meeting, Absolute Essence’s attorneys filed the emergency motion asking the judge to extend the temporary restraining order until the matter could be heard. Judge Gray agreed.
“We’re confident we can prove the allegations that we’ve made in our complaint,” Simmons said.
Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the MMC, told Whispers via email last week that the MMC will not have the authority to issue the remaining two licenses until a legislative committee approves rule changes that will allow the MMC to go back to the initial applications. “That legislative approval has not yet been issued,” he said.
A ruling on the state’s motion to dismiss the case is also pending.