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Arkansas Attorney General appeals Circuit Court ruling that halted medical marijuana process

Brandon Tabor

A March 21 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen that essentially halted the implementation of medical marijuana use in Arkansas has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. It is not certain when the court will take up the case.

On March 21, Judge Griffen declared the state Medical Marijuana Commission’s (AMMC) process of scoring and awarding Arkansas’ first licenses to five pot cultivators as “null and void” under the constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2016. A lawsuit seeking to halt the process had been filed in Griffen’s court March 13 by Little Rock-based Naturalis Health.

In his 28-page order – issued following a temporary restraining order filed March 14 preventing the regulatory panel from ratifying Arkansas’ first pot-growing licenses – Griffen rejected the process as requested by Naturalis Health.

The appeal filed Friday by Rutledge includes as defendants the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission (AMMC).

“The Attorney General disagrees with the circuit court and has appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court,” according to a statement provided to Talk Business & Politics by Rutledge spokeswoman Nicole Waugh.

Prior to his March 21 ruling, Griffen had issued a restraining order against the AMMC preventing the body from issuing licenses. Following that order, Gov. Asa. Hutchinson said the commission should have granted licenses to cultivators and dispensers the same way the ABC board does – by creating a set of qualifications and then awarding licenses through a lottery system involving all who qualify. After Wednesday’s ruling, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the governor hopes a resolution is reached in a timely manner.

Before the Naturalis’ lawsuit on March 13, the commission was expected to ratify the scores of the five highest-scoring cultivators and to review several letters of protest presented by three of the 90 losing cultivators that participated in the highly-competitive sweepstakes for the state’s first legal pot cultivation facilities.

All five of the cultivators selected had met the state’s requirement to pay a $100,000 licensing fee and post a $500,000 performance bond to start construction on the state’s first cultivation facilities. Four of the 5 cultivators plan to build their pot greenhouses in the Arkansas Delta. They include:

  • Natural State Medicinals Cultivation in Jefferson County
  • Bold Team LLC in Woodruff County
  • Natural State Wellness Enterprises in Jackson County
  • Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County
  • Delta Medical Cannabis Company in Jackson County

Talk Business and Politics airs on KASU 91.9 FM on Mondays and Fridays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:51 am.  It also airs during NPR’s All Things Considered on Wednesdays at 5:20 pm.  You can follow more of their coverage on their website TalkBusiness.net where you can also catch the latest Northeast Arkansas news

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This content has been contributed by the staff of our content partners Talk Business and Politics.