40/29 News: Complaints submitted over Arkansas medical marijuana applications

Read and watch the full story at 40/29 News.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control will investigate claims made against companies picked to grow medical marijuana in Arkansas.

14 complaints against those companies were submitted to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission earlier this year. The protest letters were submitted by companies that were not selected to grow the medical marijuana.

The letters include complaints that accuse companies of corruption, that the process was inconsistent, and that the facilities chosen didn’t follow the rules set for where they could be located.

Scott Hardin, a spokesperson with the Department of Finance, said that only eight of the complaints would be investigated. 

Hardin said that officials with Alcoholic Beverage Control will not review six of the protest letters that dealt with the review and scoring of cultivation facility applications. 

The Alcoholic Beverage Control in Arkansas can only investigate the claims that companies provided false statements during the application process.

Storm Nolan, an applicant from Fort Smith whose cultivation facility, “River Valley Relief,” is a runner-up on the list. At last month’s commission meeting, Nolan told 40/29 News that he feels the commissioners haven’t been “forthcoming” when discussing their response to the protest letters.

He and his brother have also applied for a dispensary license in Fort Smith. 

The vote to make medical marijuana legal in Arkansas passed in November 2016. The state expects it to be made available for the first time in March 2019.

The commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday Nov. 28 in Little Rock on Wednesday. 

Owners with each of the five selected cultivation facilities have been asked to attend and to provide an update to the commission on their progress.

5 News: ‘Still A Chance’ For Fort Smith Medical Marijuana Cultivation Facility Says Applicant

Read the full article at 5 News Online.

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — Storm Nolan, a local proponent of medical marijuana in Arkansas, says there’s still a chance for Fort Smith to receive a cultivation facility even after his company’s permit was denied.

Nolan’s company, River Valley Relief, sent two protest letters to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission after an application for a permit was denied. He and other unsuccessful applicants allege that the five companies approved for permits lied about their credentials and stole information from competitors.

If Fort Smith will actually have a cultivation facility depends on the results of the investigation into those companies.

“I run into people every week that talk about, you know, I’ve got cancer, or I’m living through chronic migraines. A lot of people would much rather have, or treat their ailments, with cannabis than having a doctor prescribe prescription opiates, and trying to use opiates to manage chronic pain, which is not what they were intended for,” Nolan told 5NEWS.

Currently, 19 applicants are on route to be considered for the dispensaries in Arkansas. The Medical Marijuana Commission should have the scoring of those applications done between December 7th and 14th, and will likely choose where the dispensaries will go on the 19, according to a meeting held by the commission in November.

Nolan and his brother, Kane Whitt, applied for a dispensary license in South Fort Smith, just off Zero Street and Old Greenwood Road.

It has been two years since medical marijuana was passed by voters in Arkansas. The long process has become a financial strain for some of the applicants.

Oklahoma voters approved the issue in 2018, and already have dispensaries open in the state. Arkansas residents will not be able to get medical marijuana from Oklahoma, without being a registered patient in the state. Arkansas law will allow Oklahoma citizens to get medical marijuana in the Natural State, so long as they have a certified condition meeting the requirements by Arkansas law.

Nolan says a dispensary in Fort Smith could provide up to 30 jobs, as well as employment in related fields such as security and transportation. He also believes a dispensary could help expand the industry sector in Fort Smith.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Arkansas marijuana firms violated rules, say losing bidders

Read the full story at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

As the first companies prepare to grow medical marijuana in Arkansas, a string of investigations into the claims those companies made in their applications looms over the state’s burgeoning cannabis program.

Complaints submitted to the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division by unsuccessful applicants accuse the five permitted growing companies of lying about their groups’ credentials, stealing information from competing applicants and locating growing facilities too close to a school, among other things.

The complaints, submitted through protest letters to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, were last-ditch efforts by companies that applied unsuccessfully for one of the state’s first lucrative cannabis-cultivating permits. Many of those unsuccessful companies received unwelcome news earlier this month tent and flawed, to allegations of outright corruption.

Those complaints, though, won’t be investigated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control staff because the scoring process was independent and subjective, Hamlet said.

“The scope of ABC’s authority for review of the medical marijuana application from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement director, Boyce Hamlet.

Several of the 14 protests submitted to the commission make complaints about the process commissioners used to score the more than 80 applications for cultivation licenses, ranging from claims that the process was inconsisprocess will be limited to determining if cultivation licensees or their agents provided false material statements to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission during the application process,” Hamlet wrote in the letter.

Several complaints of that nature are pending. Additionally, several protest letters claim that three of the five licensees didn’t follow the constitutional and regulatory requirements for the location of their facilities. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division could, for example, take action against a grower locating too close to a church, school or day care.

The results of the investigations into those matters are eagerly awaited by unsuccessful applicants hoping to get a growing license if one becomes available. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division has the authority to fine a medical marijuana growing company and suspend or revoke its license.

Most of the protest letters were filed in July shortly after the licenses were formally awarded.

[MEDICAL MARIJUANA: More coverage from the Democrat-Gazette]

“We anticipate decisions will be made on several protests in the coming weeks,” said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the Medical Marijuana Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division.

Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana in November 2016, but legal and regulatory challenges have delayed the controversial drug’s implementation. The Finance Department expects the drug to be available by the end of March when the first dispensary opens.

Applications for dispensary permits are being graded by Boston-based Public Consulting Group, which expects to complete its review in early December.

The five cultivation companies are in the early stages of constructing their facilities, and the Medical Marijuana Commission has asked representatives from those five groups to provide progress updates at a meeting Wednesday.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control investigation results are expected to begin trickling in at some point after that meeting.

An example of complaints is that Delta Medical Cannabis Co. of Newport and Natural State Medicinals Cultivation of Jefferson County falsely represented the backgrounds of individuals associated with each company.

An attorney for River Valley Relief Cultivation, which missed winning a license by one spot, claimed in a letter that Delta Medical Cannabis Co. provided false information about Jeff Botkin, one of the group’s “medical marijuana experts.”

Botkin didn’t hold the licenses required in Colorado to own and operate a marijuana business, as Delta Medical Cannabis Co.’s application said, according to the letter. Attached to River Valley Relief’s letter were records showing that Botkin’s Colorado business licenses had expired or been voluntarily surrendered in April 2016.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue said in a March email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazettethat Botkin had been issued new licenses on the same day that River Valley Relief’s letter was sent to the commission.

Don Parker, an owner and spokesman for Delta Medical Cannabis Co., said Tuesday that the group hadn’t been contacted by investigators about the protest letters.

“Delta Medical categorically denies that it made any false statements in its application,” Parker said.

River Valley Relief also questioned information provided by Natural State Medicinals Cultivation about one of its owners, Robert DeBin. River Valley Relief stated in its letter that DeBin was registered to vote in Colorado in 2016 and held a medical marijuana occupational license in Colorado, yet he claimed in his Arkansas application to have lived here since 2009.

DeBin hasn’t responded to requests for comments on the matter.

Bold Team, the Cotton Plant company licensed to grow medical marijuana, has been accused of omitting information about the land where it’s planning to construct its growing facility.

Delta Medical Cannabis and Natural State Wellness Enterprises of Newport plan to locate their facilities adjacent to Arkansas State University-Newport. Several unsuccessful applicants have argued that ASU-Newport should be considered a school, and therefore, it must be at least 3,000 feet away from any growing facility.

Both of the licensed cultivation companies dispute that interpretation of the law; a state lawmaker has asked Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to opine on the matter.

Times Record: Arkansas cannabis dispensary licenses expected in December

Arkansans who have been approved for medical marijuana cards may be able to finally obtain cannabis for the first time in the state’s history within the first few months of 2019 after dispensary applications are approved in December.

The Arkansas Department of Health has approved 6,308 medical marijuana card applications as of Friday for a variety of conditions that include cancer, AIDS/HIV, severe arthritis, cancer and anxiety.

The cards, which will be valid for one-year at a time, will be issued when the product is legally available, an ADH spokesperson noted. While a physician will certify a patient’s qualifying condition, a dispensary is required to have a pharmacist consultant to make sure the patient receives the correct strain and dosage, as well as delivery method.

The Boston-based firm Public Consulting Group began grading the 198 dispensary applications this week.

“With 32 dispensaries soon to be licensed, it is simply a matter of how quickly they can access the product (within the Medical Marijuana Commission’s rules and regulations) and open their doors for business,” Scott Hardin, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, wrote in an email Tuesday. “The industry won’t be fully operational until the cultivators launch production.”

While there are still some legal hangups with some of the five cultivation licenses issued this year, Hardin noted many of the dispensary licenses applied to operate as a “grow dispensary” and would be allowed to grow up to 50 cannabis plants onsite. This includes the option of bringing in mature plants.

“A number of the 32 dispensaries that are licensed will likely be ‘grow’ dispensaries,” Hardin wrote. “We we won’t know for certain how many until licenses are awarded in early December. We don’t anticipate all cultivators and 32 dispensaries will be open by the first quarter of 2019, but it is likely that a limited number of dispensaries may open their doors for business in that time frame.”

Each of the state’s eight zones will receive a total of four dispensary licenses.

“Issuing licenses by zone will ensure Arkansans do not have to drive hours to access a dispensary,” Hardin added.

Fort Smith and Van Buren are in Zone 4. There are eight dispensary applications out of Fort Smith and two in Van Buren. Others for Zone 4 are located in Mountainburg, Russellville, London, Blufton, Clarksville, Hattieville, Lamar and Pottsville.

There are just two dispensary applications for Zone 6, the other west central Arkansas zone. Both of those dispensary applications are out of Mena. The four northwest Arkansas counties in Zone 1 have 29 dispensary applications. Most of them, 13, are from Fayetteville.

Storm Nolan, one of the principles for River Valley Relief Cultivation in Fort Smith, said he expects to see more medical cannabis card applications once the product is legally available in the state. River Valley Relief applied for a dispensary license, but it was not a “grow” dispensary license. River Valley Relief tied for sixth place with New Day Cultivation in Garland County for one of the first five cultivation licenses.