Update: Monday afternoon, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright denied Storm Nolan’s second request to intervene, which we reported below. Wright had denied Nolan’s first request to intervene in the case on Nov. 2. Wright also said that Nolan’s motion for a new trial is not properly before the court and moot.
Fort Smith medical marijuana cultivator Storm Nolan is pushing back against a judge’s order that the state revoke his cannabis license, arguing in a motion filed in advance of a Nov. 28 state hearing on the matter that his company, River Valley Relief Cultivation, should get a new trial.
Nolan, a Fort Smith hotelier who says he and his brother have invested millions of dollars in the imperiled cannabis operation, filed the pleading Thursday in Pulaski County Circuit Court through attorneys Matthew Horan of Fort Smith and Joseph Falasco of Little Rock.
Circuit Judge Herbert Wright had ruled earlier this month in favor of a competing cultivation business that argued it should have received River Valley’s license, 2600 Holdings of Little Rock, doing business as Southern Roots Cultivation. Wright ordered the state Medical Marijuana Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which enforces cultivation rules, to move swiftly toward revoking Nolan’s license.
Thursday’s filing argues that Wright’s ruling was flawed, and says $6 million worth of medical cannabis would go to waste if his revocation order stands.
Nolan, reached by Arkansas Business by phone on Saturday, would not speak on the record but acknowledged the motion, which he said speaks for itself.
The filing faults several of Wright’s conclusions, including his suggestion that Nolan’s grow site was too close to a school under cultivation siting requirements. The attorneys cite a case that concluded that a hospital having a chapel within its in a hospital did not make the entire hospital a church. Likewise, they reasoned, a juvenile detention center where classes are held shouldn’t properly be considered a school.
Nolan argues that all of River Valley’s paperwork was filed properly, and that a corporate name change that the judge viewed as a fatal flaw in his license application was a minor infraction that the state corrected by levying a fine against him.
Nolan has gained some sympathy in the business community because he wasn’t a party to the suit filed by 2600 Holdings, which named only state entities as defendants. As Nolan pleaded earlier before being rejected by Wright, his side has never been heard in court. He contends River Valley has never been in violation of state rules. 2600 Holdings is trying to block an Alcoholic Beverage Control hearing on the matter set for Nov. 28, but it still appears on the agency’s schedule.
Nolan’s pleading also says that 75 Arkansans will lose their jobs with the cultivator if the license is revoked, and he argues against any need for undue rush. The motion also claims there are irregularities in 2600 Holdings’ license application, including one that its proposed site is within 700 feet of a school. (That’s a possible reference to a district school bus garage.)
Supporters of Nolan’s motion say the filing is well researched and steeped in case law, but in the litigious environment created by the state’s widely contested licensing system since voters approved medical cannabis in 2016, nothing is certain.
State spokesman Scott Hardin has said the process for revoking a license requires a hearing, and any ABC ruling resulting from that could be appealed to the agency’s board. If it rules in favor of stripping a license, another appeal is possible to circuit court.
2600 Holdings has asked Judge Wright to pre-empt the Nov. 28 hearing. Wright has ruled that the state erred in granting Nolan’s license, but River Valley’s filing says he made “fundamental errors of fact and law” in coming to that conclusion. It also argues Nolan has been denied due process of law.