KNWA: AR Medical Marijuana Commission Hires Consultant to Speed up Process

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FORT SMITH, Ark. – To speed up the vetting process of businesses wanting to sell medical pot in Arkansas, the Medical Marijuana Commission is hiring a consultant to sort through the hundreds of applications.

Last week the commission awarded five licenses for the cultivation facilities.

The consultant will review and score the dispensary applications.

Storm Nolan of River Valley Relief Cultivation in Fort Smith, that was runner up to being awarded a license says he thinks this a good step for the state.

“It’ll allow a company to come in, and do it completely and 100% objectively and do it very quickly. And the word that we’re getting is the scoring will be complete by late November,” said Nolan.

Nolan said since the ABC is looking into the list of letters with discrepancies about some of the top 5 winners, there’s a chance his center could be awarded a license.

40/29 NEWS: Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission talks dispensaries

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This is the first time the commission has met since the State Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit against its actions.

On Monday, The Medical Marijuana Commission discussed hiring an independent consulting firm to review and score 227 applications dispensary applications.

32 licenses will be granted to dispensaries to legally sell medical marijuana.

Commissioners said the consultant firm would be more transparent and would speed up the process.

“Arkansans passed this in November 2016, due to the injunction we’ve had a 3 month delay and everyone’s ready to move forward,” said Department of Finance and Administration Spokesperson Scott Hardin.

Hardin told 40/29 News, barring additional delays, medical marijuana could be available in Arkansas sometime soon after the first of 2019.

At the meeting, some commissioners said the public is losing trust and confidence with the commission.

Previously, in a letter to the Supreme Court of Arkansas, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge wrote that one commissioner had been offered a bribe in exchange for a high score on a cultivation facility application.

The attorney general wrote that the commissioner did not accept the bribe, but, the attorney general also noted that the commissioner did not immediately report the incident.

40/29 news learned the commissioner in question was Dr. Carlos Ramon. At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, Dr. Ramon did not speak with reporters.

“I think the commission has received a lot of grief and there’s been a lot of conspiracy theories about relationships with applicants,” said Alex Gray.

Gray is an attorney who represents the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Board. He spoke with 40/29 News about commissioners potentially hiring a consultant firm to review dispensary applications, “I think this removes that element or that level of distrust.”

“I think this is the best outcome that could have happened,” said Storm Nolan.

Nolan represents River Valley Relief, which is a cultivation facility that would be located in Fort Smith.

River Valley Relief is the first in line to receive a cultivation license if there’s a problem with one of the 5 other cultivation facilities that were selected to receive licenses.

Nolan hopes the commission will also order an independent review of the 95 applications for cultivation facilities, “Just do a very thorough review and a quick review and get those licenses handed out to the best applicants.”

Commissioners did not discuss cultivation facility licenses on Monday, but, Hardin said the licenses could be issued as soon as Monday, July 9th.

The Medical Marijuana Commission is set to meet again Thursday, July 12th at 4 P.M..

KARK: Medical Marijuana Commission May Hire Consultant for Dispensary Scoring

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission will look at hiring an outside group to score the state’s dispensary applications.

The five members voted unanimously Monday to explore the idea of a consultant grading the 228 applications, with the final authority to award licenses still resting with them.

“The public is losing trust in this commission,” Dr. Stephen Carroll told his colleagues before he made a motion to hire a third party.

The commission will further discuss the change at a meeting July 12, along with cultivation facility licenses.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that allows the commission to move forward and issue the five permits to grow medical marijuana becomes final July 9.

Some at Monday’s meeting believe the commissioners will issue the licenses as soon as possible to the top five scorers they announced in February. Others, including unsuccessful cultivation candidates, hope the commission decides to let an outside group take a second look.

“It appeared clear to me that if this works for dispensaries, it would make a lot of sense for cultivation facilities,” said Storm Nolan with the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association. “Because if they proceed with cultivation with the existing scoring in place, the same lawsuits are going to come right back and we’ll be in the same spot in front of the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

The state legislature would ultimately have to approve the commission’s decision to hire a consultant to score the dispensary applications as an emergency rule, which would happen in mid-August at the earliest.

Alex Gray, an attorney for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association, expects a third party to begin scoring the submissions in September.

Mary Robin Casteel, the director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, reminded the commission that two members’ terms expire in November, which would not give them enough time to score all of the dispensary applications.

“We also don’t want to end up with a year-long process by hiring outside,” commissioner Travis Story told his colleagues.