Arkansas issues 5 medical marijuana cultivation licenses

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Commission has awarded licenses to five cultivation companies after an injunction against issuing the licenses was lifted Tuesday.

The injunction was issued in March by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. He ruled that the award process violated the state’s 2016 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The state Supreme Court reversed Griffen’s decision last month, allowing the state to officially issue the licenses.

The companies that were issued licenses are Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, Bold Team LLC, Natural State Wellness Enterprises, Osage Creek Cultivation, and Delta Medical Cannabis Co.

Licenses were awarded after each company paid a $100,000 license fee and a $500,000 performance bond.

Dustin McDaniel, an attorney for and investor in Natural State Wellness Enterprises, said the company is looking forward to beginning cultivating as soon as possible.

“The voters have made it clear that they want this medication made available to patients expeditiously and we will work diligently to do that,” McDaniel said.

One potential roadblock is that there are currently no licensed dispensaries, and the process to award licenses could be lengthy. The commission has received about 230 applications for 32 dispensary licenses and is considering hiring an independent consultant to assist reviewing them. On July 12, the commission will review options for hiring the consultant, which will first require an emergency rule change.

The move to hire a consultant was also prompted by allegations of impropriety during the cultivation process. The ruling by judge Griffen that was overturned supported an unsuccessful cultivation applicant, who had claimed two committee members had conflicts of interest. And in early June, a letter from the Arkansas attorney general revealed that a member of the commission claimed an unsuccessful applicant tried to bribe him.

The commission can issue up to eight cultivation licenses, said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. However, right now there are no plans to issue any more licenses.