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Loudest Voice in the Grow Room (Hunter Field Editor’s Note)

Hunter Field Editor's Note
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Arkansas’ medical marijuana industry is nothing if not full of colorful characters, and unless the courts step in, one of those characters will be booted from the industry.

I’m talking about Dragan Vicentic, the owner of Green Springs Medical dispensary in Hot Springs, which had its license to sell cannabis revoked by state regulators about a month ago.

Vicentic opened one of the state’s first dispensaries, and from the start, he has been one of the loudest voices in the room. He has painted himself as a patient advocate, but he’s managed to anger just about everyone else along the way — other dispensaries, cultivators, state regulators and even his business partner.

As a reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I spoke with Vicentic a lot in the early days of medical marijuana. He was candid and gave good quotes. I couldn’t help but wonder if that would ever catch up to him. It appears it finally has.

In May, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division stripped Green Springs’ dispensary license, alleging the retailer sold expired products, failed to properly maintain cannabis records and was unsanitary.

Not great, but couldn’t he just sell this incredibly lucrative license? Wrong.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission a few weeks ago declined to renew the Green Springs permit, which Vicentic had planned to sell to another ownership group.

And so far, a Garland County circuit judge has declined to grant Vicentic’s request to order the state to allow Green Springs to remain in operation.

This, of course, is a devastating blow. Licensed marijuana businesses in Arkansas have always fallen back on the fact that they can sell these hard-won assets at a premium since the state has capped the number of cultivation and dispensary licenses.

Unfortunately for Vicentic, it appears Green Springs lost nearly all of its value with its license.

I don’t have any inside information about how Vicentic found himself in regulators’ crosshairs, but after covering the birth of Arkansas’ cannabis industry, I know how these things typically play out.

I often tell people that those years after Arkansas voted to legalize medical cannabis were the most fun I’ve ever had as a journalist. So many powerful people wanted one of those licenses, and they were willing to do a lot to get one. Almost daily I was bombarded with accusations from competing groups about other marijuana companies.

Most of that has settled down, but there certainly hasn’t been a chorus of other dispensaries willing to speak up in defense of Vicentic or to the precedent stripping his license might set. That’s not surprising given how he talked about his competitors and suppliers in the past.

Righteous indignation is fine. But your own house better be squeaky clean.

Email Hunter Field, editor of Arkansas Business, at hfield@abpg.com
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