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.