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Pine Bluff Snaps Up Newport Marijuana CultivatorLock Icon

4 min read

Turnabout is fair play in Jefferson County, which gained a medical marijuana cultivation center from Newport this month after losing it to the Jackson County seat more than two years ago.

When Arkansas issued licenses for its new medical marijuana industry in early 2018, one licensed cultivator, Natural State Wellness, was approved to choose a site in Newport or in Pine Bluff. It chose Newport, which had already landed Delta Medical Cannabis Co. as a cultivator, much to the disappointment of Jefferson County economic developers.

But on Nov. 10, the state Medical Marijuana Commission approved the sale of Natural State Wellness to an ownership cast of dozens who are building a $25 million top-of-the-line grow facility in Pine Bluff and planning to move the grow business there as soon as possible.

Jefferson County is also home to Natural State Medicinals of White Hall.

Luckily for those challenged by soundalike names, Natural State Wellness has been renamed Good Day Farm LLC.

“All five of the [original licensed] cultivators are now selling product to dispensaries,” state spokesman Scott Hardin told Whispers. The recently sold dispensary was the fifth to start sales, and three other cultivation companies are in development, he said.

Sellers were a 23-owner group including Henry Wilkins V, Ryan Young, John Allison, William Carwell, Melissa Moody and Dustin McDaniel. The buyers include more than 70 entities and individuals led by AMGMC Capital Investment LLC of Rogers with a 15.57% share. AMGMC Capital is 100% owned by Ann Gray, according to state files. Delta Medicinals LLC, led by Reid Dove, has a 9.34% stake; followed by Perennials LLC, owned by Kim Brockinton, 5.1%; and Lee Styslinger’s AG Holdings LLC and Edward Dobbs’ Legacy Medical Holdings LLC, 4.67% each.

No sale price was disclosed, and Hardin said the state does not track that information.

Local Reactions

Allison J.H. Thompson, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, referred Whispers to Eric Thornton, a principal with Ramsey Thornton Barrett Oborn PLC of Dickson, Tennessee, who worked with her to find the Jefferson County site.

Emailing Whispers from Oxford, Mississippi, where he is working on plans for another medical marijuana facility, Thornton said Good Day Farm will employ more than 200 people and invest $50 million in the project.

Clark Contractors of Little Rock is heading work on the 45,000-SF facility, and the goal is to be growing plants in Pine Bluff by April 1, 2021, Thornton said.

“We have leaders in the medical cannabis world already on the team and others joining soon,” the real estate attorney said. “If you’re passionate about medical cannabis and delivering the best quality products, this is going to be an exciting team to be learning and growing with. The building and campus are going to be amazing.”

Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission, said officials in Jackson County were under the impression that a licensed cannabis facility couldn’t be moved once it was in operation and had employees working for it.

“We’re not pleased with the news that one of our cultivation facilities had sold and that the new owners were planning to move,” Chadwell said. “We’re now investigating several avenues to respond to this outcome, including possible legal action.”

Rolling a Number, Down

Hardin, the state medical marijuana spokesman, also had a complex answer to a question posed by Randi Hernandez, a principal owner and CEO of Acanza Health Group in Fayetteville: Why did the number of marijuana card holders listed on a state website plunge by a third this month, from 93,000 to 60,000?

Hardin said the number fell not because of a huge drop in patients, but rather because of a counting change. The 93,000 number included all card approvals since the program started, including those that have since expired and many temporary, renewable out-of-state patient cards that previously counted each time they were renewed.

“Everyone, including us here at Alcoholic Beverage Control, have reported the number on the Arkansas Health Department website as active cards, and that number was over 93,000 earlier this month,” Hardin said. “However, ABC’s director [Doralee Chandler] learned and reported to the Medical Marijuana Commission last week that the 93,000 number is approved applications in whole. So it’s not that there was a massive drop in the number of patients — that’s not the case. It’s that we learned specifically what was within the numbers. … That larger number had licenses or patient cards that have expired, the out-of-state patient cards, which are good for 30 days. So you had people renewing those on several occasions. Considering all of that, that’s how you get the 60,000.”

Acanza is the state’s third-leading medical cannabis retailer, having sold 2,051 pounds through Nov. 8. Green Springs Medical of Hot Springs, which opened in May 2019, leads with 3,300 pounds in sales, followed by the ReLeaf Center of Bentonville at 3,024 pounds. The Source of Bentonville follows Acanza at 1,875 pounds.

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