Arkansas Times: ‘Null and void’

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Last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the state Medical Marijuana Commission from awarding five permits to companies to cultivate marijuana in the state.

He declared the earlier scoring of five top applicants “null and void,” with a key factor being commissioners’ conflicts of interest.

The state later announced that it would appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Griffen’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by Naturalis Health, one of dozens of applicants that finished low in the scoring. It alleged faulty judging, conflicts of interest and arbitrary scoring. Other intervenors made similar complaints. The commission announced the top scores Feb. 27. The winners, in order, were Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, Bold Team, Natural State Wellness Enterprises, Osage Creek Cultivation and Delta Medical Cannabis Co. Inc.

 

In summary, Griffen said: “To put it bluntly, the Medical Marijuana Commission and Alcoholic Beverage Control Division have proceeded in a manner that denies due process and the rule of law, rather than in a manner that respects it.”

He said it was “unpleasant” that the decision means more delay for people hoping to obtain medical marijuana to alleviate suffering. But he said it was the court’s duty to uphold the rule of law.

Griffen’s ruling “will help convince Arkansans that the process [of selecting medical marijuana cultivators and dispensers] was rolled out in a fair and equitable manner,” Storm Nolan, the founder of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association and its former president, said.

“The unfortunate part is it’s going to take even longer for patients to get medical cannabis,” and patients are already frustrated with the amount of time it’s taking Arkansas to implement a constitutional amendment voted on by the people in 2016, he said. “It’s making people cynical,” he said, but the association is trying to educate those who need medical cannabis that the “state is not trying to drag its feet” on the implementation of the industry.

Nolan is also an owner in River Valley Relief Cultivation, which was scored in sixth place by the Medical Marijuana Commission, just out of the running.

After Griffen’s ruling, Governor Hutchinson said the commission should have granted licenses to qualified applicants by a lottery system.

The commission now has to decide how to proceed in awarding 32 dispensary permits from among 200 or so applicants.

NWA Homepage: Medical Marijuana Ruling Appealed by Attorney General

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA) — Arkansas’s attorney general is appealing a Pulaski County judge’s ruling on medical marijuana cultivation center selection criteria.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is in support of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission and has written an appeal against Judge Wendell Griffen’s ruling.

Nicole Waugh, communications director for the attorney general’s office, released a statement.

“The Attorney General disagrees with the circuit court and has appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

Griffen ruled in favor of plaintiff Naturalis Health on Wednesday.

Griffen wrote the scoring process was unconstitutional and called the ratings “null and void.”

The state had selected five marijuana cultivation centers across the state based on a rating system. Naturalis Health was one of the cultivation center applicants rated too low to be granted a cultivation center license.

River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith, along with three other companies, joined the lawsuit, arguing various flaws in the process gave unfair advantages to the licensees.

Ozarks First: Medical Marijuana Runner-up Joins Lawsuit Against State

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FORT SMITH, Ark. — The runner-up to get a medical marijuana cultivation permit has joined a lawsuit against the State of Arkansas regarding the selection process for growing licenses.

River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith, along with three other companies, are arguing various flaws in the process gave unfair advantages to the licensees.

Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in favor of the original plaintiff, Naturalis Health, Wednesday.

Griffen wrote the scoring process was unconstitutional and called the ratings “null and void.”

The attorney general’s office is reviewing his decision.

(KNWA)

ArkansasOnline: 1st firm on list for Arkansas pot license seeks suit slot

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The first company that stood to receive one of Arkansas’ five new medical-marijuana growing licenses asked Thursday to intervene in the lawsuit that derailed the state’s plans for handing out the licenses.

Natural State Wellness Enterprises joins four other marijuana-cultivation applicants that have asked Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to allow them to become parties in a lawsuit against the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, but it’s the first to argue in the commission’s favor.

Griffen, in an order Wednesday, declared the commission’s rankings of the 95 cultivation applicants “null and void” and barred the panel from awarding the first five growing licenses. The judge cited the appearance of bias in the evaluations of two proposals and also cited the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division’s failure to verify that applicants complied with key requirements.

Another disgruntled applicant also asked to join the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon.

In its request to intervene, River Valley Relief Cultivation added to the mountain of allegations against the five companies that stood to receive a growing license.

River Valley Relief, the sixth-highest scoring company, accused Natural State Medicinals Cultivation of providing false information in its application about the residency of one of its owners.

The company cited voter-registration records from Arkansas and Colorado for Robert deBin, a part owner of Natural State Medicinals Cultivation. DeBin was registered to vote in both Colorado and Arkansas in 2016, according to voting records attached to River Valley Relief’s complaint. Commission rules require all cultivation and dispensary license applicants to have lived in Arkansas for the past seven years.

River Valley Relief also cited deBin’s current marijuana occupational license in Colorado. To hold a license there, the state requires license holders to be residents.

“A failure to engage in an inquiry and verification of each applicant undermines the integrity of the selection process and is a failure of the Commission to enforce its own rules,” an attorney for River Valley Relief wrote.

DeBin, who is also president of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, didn’t respond to an email requesting comment on Thursday, and a phone call to the association went unanswered.

Press Argus-Courier: River Valley Relief Cultivation applying to commission again

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River Valley Relief Cultivation in Fort Smith will have another shot at obtaining a cultivation license now that an Arkansas circuit judge has declared the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission’s initial decisions “null and void” and in violation of state Constitution Amendment 98 based on a lack of verification and apparent conflicts of interest between two of the commissioners and two of the companies that were nearly granted cultivation licenses.

Storm Nolan of River Valley Relief said he feels the decision by 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in Pulaski County will provide more “confidence” in the program. River Valley Relief tied for sixth place among 95 applicants. The commission is allowed to grant eight cultivation licenses but has chosen to begin with just five.

“I think it gives the people of Arkansas more confidence in the way the program is rolled out,” Nolan said Wednesday morning after the ruling was filed.

River Valley Relief Cultivation had issued a letter to the commission March 14 calling out one of the top five picks as having submitted false information on its application. Griffen issued a halt to the commission’s proceedings the same day when Naturalis Health filed suit against the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, and the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Nolan speculates that recommendations made to the commission from the Stephens Group for an independent audit of the applications could be granted following this ruling.

“The Stephens Group brought up some good points that the scoring was erratic,” Nolan said. “Tons of work went into this by the commission but they didn’t have the tools to do it.”

Griffen noted in his 28-page preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment that the ABC and the Medical Marijuana Commission had failed to verify the proposed cultivation facilities were at least 3,000 feet from a public or private school, a church or a day-care center. Both Travis Story and Dr. J. Carlos Roman of the Medical Marijuana Commission also had “conflicts of interest” with applicants.

“Commissioner Roman allegedly refers medical patients to Legacy Spine and Neurological Specialists, an entity founded by Dr. Scott Michael Schlesinger, one of the owners of cultivation facility license applicant Natural State Medicinal Cultivation, and scored the application of NSMC more than thirty points higher than the average score he assigned to the remaining cultivation facility license applicants,” the ruling states. “Commissioner Story’s law firm has represented Jay and Mary Trulove, owners of cultivation facility license applicant Osage Creek Cultivation, in a number of corporate filings, a land use dispute and other Trulove-owned businesses.”

Griffen notes, however, that Story’s Fayetteville law firm, which he operates with Republican state Rep. Bob Ballinger, reportedly declined to perform any legal work related to the medical marijuana cultivation facility application due to Story’s role on the commission.

Cannabis Business Times: Fort Smith Cultivator Protests Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Licensing Awards

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One of the sixth-place finishers in the highly-competitive sweepstakes for one of Arkansas’ five prized cannabis-growing licenses has filed a protest with the state Medical Marijuana Commission.

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — One of the sixth-place finishers in the highly-competitive sweepstakes for one of Arkansas’ five prized cannabis-growing licenses has filed a protest with the state Medical Marijuana Commission ahead of the regulatory panel’s much anticipated meeting on Wednesday.

In a letter from Wright Lindsey Jennings attorney Erika Gee, River Valley, Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith alleges that fifth-place finisher Delta Medical Cannabis Company of Jonesboro provided “misleading, incorrect, false or fraudulent information” to the commission. The Little Rock attorney representing the Fort Smith partnership then asks the five-person panel to halt the final award of medical marijuana licenses until the claims are investigated.

NWAHomepage: Groups Try to Delay Final Award of AR Medical Marijuana Licenses

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FORT SMITH, Ark. – Just days before the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is set to finalize the top five cultivation centers, multiple groups are calling for investigations into the applicants.

‘We just want to make sure the program is rolled out right,” said Storm Nolan, a River Valley Relief Cultivation applicant.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has now received multiple letters just like these detailing concerns about the top 5 cultivation finalists.

“If no one at the state checks for false claims, then that could be a determent to the people of Arkansas, and especially Cannabis patients,” said Storm Nolan.

One of those letters, from State Representative Scott Baltz explaining the possibility that some of the cultivation centers have tax problems.

“If somebody had issues out there, and they were in the top 5, we need to look at that pretty hard,” said Baltz.

Scott Hardin with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said they’ve already vetted the individuals involved and they’re in compliance with state law.

“His concern on the corporate side the rules and regulations on the Medical Marijuana side don’t address that, so therefore that’s not something we really could have any authorization over,” said Hardin.

Hardin said because of the letter, they’re going to double check the applicants.

But Baltz isn’t the only one raising red flags.

“It’s certainly reasonable to ask the commission to go and do some fact checking just to make sure everybody is on the up and up,” said Nolan.

Nolan’s application to get a cultivation center landed in 6th place.

He said he thinks one of the finalists provided false information to the commission.

“The big problem to this point is the commissioners have no way to check the veracity of the information they were given,” explained Nolan.

Nolan said he knows it’s unlikely his center will be bumped up, but it’s about making sure everything is done right.

As for right now, the commission said there won’t be any delays.

“We certainly want to hear this feedback, and address it as necessary. However, we don’t anticipate that this is going to stop the process,” said Hardin.

The commission plans to meet Wednesday, March 14th at 5 p.m. to award the 5 cultivation centers.

ArkansasOnline: Another complaint filed over medical marijuana growing licenses

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Another unsuccessful medical marijuana growing license applicant has sent a letter to state regulators asking the license process to be put on hold.

The letter, sent Monday by attorneys for River Valley Relief Cultivation, alleged that one of the five successful applicants, Newport-based Delta Medical Cannabis Company, provided false information about one of its “medical marijuana experts.”

[DOCUMENTS: Read complaint letters + winning applications]

River Valley Relief Cultivation is one of two companies that missed on securing one of the first five cannabis growing licenses, scoring just outside the top five.

Its letter is the latest in flood of challenges and inquiries sent to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission since it announced the first growing license winners Feb. 27. The commission is expected to formally issue the first five licenses at its meeting Wednesday.

Read Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Talk Business & Politics: Fort Smith cultivator protests state’s medical marijuana licensing awards

Read the full story at Talk Business & Politics.

One of the sixth-place finishers in the highly-competitive sweepstakes for one of Arkansas’ five prized pot-growing licenses has filed a protest with the state Medical Marijuana Commission ahead of the regulatory panel’s much anticipated meeting on Wednesday.

In a letter from Wright Lindsey Jennings attorney Erika Gee, River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith alleges that fifth-place finisher Delta Medical Cannabis Company of Jonesboro provided “misleading, incorrect, false or fraudulent information” to the commission. The Little Rock attorney representing the Fort Smith partnership then asks the five-person panel to halt the final award of medical pot licenses until the claims are investigated.

“We would like the commission to delay the final awarding of the licensees until they have a chance to check the top applications for misleading, false or fraudulent information,” said Storm Nolan, spokesman and one of the key investors for River Valley. “Up to this point, there’s been no mechanism for the commissioners to be able to ascertain the veracity of the information in the applications provided to them.”

According to Gee’s complaint, Delta Medical’s application revealed a number of “representations” [that] appear to be false.” For one, the complaint states that the Jonesboro partnership falsely bolstered the background and qualifications of its cultivation team, noting that one employee misrepresented his experience as an owner of a medical marijuana business in Colorado.

According to state business filings and redacted AMMC submissions on the top 10 applicants, Delta Medicinals’ largest investors are affiliated with three limited liability companies (LLCs) based in Northeast Arkansas. Prominent Jonesboro resident and business owners Dr. John and Missy McKee and Ray Osment are listed as part owners of Valentine Holdings LLC. They could not be reached for comment late Wednesday evening.

Following are the five companies selected to blossom the state’s newest industry from the startup stage to an expected $70-million-dollar industry by 2025.
• 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 in Jackson County.

New Day Cultivation in Garland County tied for sixth place on the commission’s list with River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith.

To date, the AMMC staff has only posted the scores of the top five cultivators that were awarded licenses at the February meeting. Under the commission’s 500-point scoring system approved by the state legislature nearly a year ago, Natural State Medicinals of Little Rock easily had the highest score at 486 with all five commissioners giving the Little Rock cultivator marks between 90 and 100.

None of the other top five applicants graded higher than 445, or an average score of 89 from each commissioner. Delta Medical scored 432 out of possible 500 for its proposal to build its cultivation facility near Newport in Jackson County. River Valley received a score of 427.5, Nolan said, just out of running for one of the five licenses.

The letter to the AMMC from River Valley’s attorney comes only two days before the regulatory panel’s part-time commissioners are expected to ratify the scores and vote to officially accept the five applicants as the state’s first cultivators to grow and supply medical cannabis products for approved Arkansas patients or care providers.

ArkansasMatters: Cannabis Dispensary Agent Training Held in Little Rock

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association hosted a dispensary agent training session at the Airport Holiday Inn Sunday afternoon, training participants without a prior medical background in some of the basics when it comes to professionally consulting critically-ill patients.

Today’s session was the ACIA’s second official endorsed training in the state, their first hosting more than 500 participants.

Attendees of the four hour session were awarded a certificate of completion and placed into a job pool for future dispensary license holders.

As of March 2nd, 2018, the Arkansas Department of Health reports the number of registered cannabis patients in Arkansas to be 4,255.