Arkansas Judge Blocks Progress of State Cultivation Licenses

Hopeful cannabis cultivators in Arkansas will have to wait longer to open up their businesses while the constitutionality of the state’s point system used to choose licenses is under question.

A county judge recently blocked the state of Arkansas from issuing medical cannabis licenses. Any licenses that were approved now stand now as null and void, stating that a recent lawsuit had factual evidence showing that the ranking and approving of licensees was unconstitutional.

The licenses were chosen based on a 500-point rubric system, with the highest scoring receiving the five licenses. In addition, 2.5 bonus points were given to applications that had 51 percent of their ownership as women, minorities or veterans.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission from granting the cultivation licenses to Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, Bold Team LLC, Natural State Wellness Enterprises, Osage Creek Cultivation and Delta Medical Cannabis Company, Inc.

The injunction follows a restraining order after an unsuccessful applicant, Naturalis Health LLC, filed a lawsuit, stating several reasons they felt the commission’s point system and decisions were flawed. The restraining order was granted after a judge stated the lawsuit showed “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits regarding violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, due process and equal protection and that Naturalis Health LLC will suffer irreparable harm absent a temporary restraining order.”

Judge Griffen stated that a key factor being commissioners on the board having conflicts of interest. The judge also found the state did not independently confirm the required location buffer of 3,000 feet from a church or school.

However, the judge rejected other arguments in the lawsuit, including lack of proof of residency for some applicants and a different score sheet used by one commissioner.

The next step, choosing dispensary licensees from applications, is now being reviewed because of the order. “The prospect that Arkansans must now endure more delay before gaining much needed access to locally grown medical marijuana should be unpleasant to anyone concerned about providing relief to people who suffer from serious illnesses.”

It’s a shame that last year’s flurry of applications are being denied progress, but hopefully the state’s program will be up and running again in the near future.

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