40/29 News: Fort Smith Medical Marijuana cultivation site moving

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The Arkansas Medical Marijuana commission gave River Valley Relief Cultivation approval on Tuesday to move their operations 5.6 miles across town. 

“We think it’s a better location,” explained Storm Nolan, the owner of River Valley Relief Cultivation. “It’s going to allow us to get up and going quickly because it’s a nice, well-built existing warehouse that is ready for us to start putting up walls and equipment.”Advertisement

However not everyone supported the change. Quenton May, an attorney based in Little Rock, spoke out at the commission meeting because ABC is investigating a claim filed against River Valley Productions LLC. Members of the Medical Marijuana Commission were told not to let that impact their decision.

“Ruling on a change of location for this applicant at this point is improper,” said May. “It’s premature, the application submitted by river valley production was not compliant when it was submitted.”

May said the original location of the cultivation site on South E Street was within 3000 feet of a school. Storm Nolan countered, saying it was a juvenile detention center and he had letters from the state board of education, Fort Smith Public Schools and Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office all stating the property was not a school. 

“None of this is surprising,” said Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the Medical Marijuana Commission. “You have cultivation licenses that are valued at tens of millions of dollars if not more. To say it’s a competitive process is an extreme understatement.” 

With the commission’s approval, Nolan hopes to have the new cultivation site approved to grow medical marijuana by the start of 2021. “Everyday that we’re not under construction is a stressful day, and so that’s our number one goal is to get up and running so we can serve our Arkansas patients.”

5 News: High demand for medical marijuana causes shortage in Arkansas

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Patients are struggling to find medical marijuana in Arkansas during the coronavirus pandemic.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — There are several questions in both Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley regarding medical marijuana dispensaries and the struggle to meet the needs of Arkansans.

Patient Carla Thompson says if medical marijuana doesn’t become more available in Arkansas she may have to go to Oklahoma.

“Like right now I’m almost out so tomorrow I will probably have to go online and search around and try to find somewhere that has something,” Thompson said.

Thompson and many other patients say finding access to the medicine they need is almost impossible. She says her local dispensary, Fort Cannabis Company, struggles to keep its shelves full of any strain.

“Mostly from just anything we ran completely out of flower for two weeks now,” said Fort Cannabis Manager Alisha.

Alisha said the amount they order from their cultivators often doesn’t show up in full.

“We need this many pounds and they will send us half that sometimes,” Alisha said.

And when they get a shipment, it’s gone fast.

“With them being the only one in Sebastian County when they do get a supply in the line is wrapped around the building,” Thompson said.

Acanza and Releaf Center in Northwest Arkansas both face the same problem.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commissioner Travis Story says there are plenty of flowers out there.

“It seems that there is supply in the product available in the system and so that’s kind of the responsibility of the individual dispensaries,” Story said.

Story says as of July, three cultivators were fully functional and two were still harvesting and preparing to ship production. The commission has approved licenses for three additional cultivation facilities. 

While the reason for shortages remains up in the air, the issue is clear, patients can’t get their medication.

It’s a problem Thompson says she’s tired of driving up to 100 miles to Conway or Little Rock. She says if something doesn’t change, she might have to take her business across the Oklahoma border with a temporary license.

“Where I live that’s just about 5 or 10 miles away, I’m close to Pocola and the Roland border so that’s what I’m thinking about doing,” Thompson said. “People are spending money in Oklahoma, why not have the money here in Arkansas where we need it instead of taking the money out of state somewhere else.”

KNWA: ‘They are doing this for one reason: greed.’ River Valley marijuana cultivator responds to lawsuit filed on behalf of competitors

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Fort Smith-based medical marijuana cultivator responded to claims made in a lawsuit filed on behalf of his competitors, stating, “They want to limit competition and maintain artificially high medical cannabis pricing.”

Storm Nolan is the owner of River Valley Relief, one of three cultivators granted licenses by the Medical Marijuana Commission during the pandemic. The five existing cultivators filed a lawsuit against River Valley Relief, accusing it of being located too close to a school, as defined by a 2017 memo, and operating under a dissolved LLC. The lawsuit seeks to revoke the company’s license.

“They are doing this for one reason: greed,” Nolan said. “They want to limit competition and maintain artificially high medical cannabis pricing which is currently unaffordable to many Arkansas patients.”

Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Dept. of Finance, said the LLC issue could prove to be the most difficult hurdle for River Valley Relief. Nolan pointed to the company’s status with the Secretary of State’s office and said the issue is overblown.

“The license was issued to me as the applicant and our company, River Valley Production, LLC,” Nolan said. “Our DBA is River Valley Relief Cultivation, and our status with the SoS is in ‘Good Standing.’”

The lawsuit noted that River Valley Relief Cultivation is located close to the Sebastian County Juvenile Detention Center, and a 2017 Medical Marijuana Commission memo stated that juvenile centers are considered schools because local school districts teach curriculum in the facilities. Nolan sent an email from the Arkansas Dept. of Education that said the department, “does not consider the Sebastian County JDC to be a ‘school’ or a ‘school district’ for purposes of Title 6 of the Arkansas Code.”

Nolan said the company submitted a transfer request to move to another location, which would eliminate this problem if approved.

“We are asking the MMC to let us relocate within Fort Smith, so this is a moot point in addition to the allegation in the lawsuit having no merit,” Nolan said.

Nolan said he expected the lawsuit to be filed after seeing similar occurrences in other states.

“We were not surprised by the lawsuit, as this tactic has been used in other states with limited licenses, because the incumbents want to limit competition,” Nolan said. “We are proceeding ahead, working to complete our facility and bring medical cannabis to Arkansas patients as quickly as can be done.”

KNWA: New medical marijuana cultivators granted licenses amid pandemic, controversy surrounds approval

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Three medical marijuana cultivators were granted licenses as state sales have risen dramatically during the pandemic, said a Dept. of Finance spokesperson. The additions have drawn controversy, including a lawsuit filed against a cultivator in the River Valley.

“These licenses are worth 10s of millions of dollars, if not more, so they’re obviously very important to companies,” said Scott Hardin, Dept. of Finance spokesperson. “The challenges aren’t a surprise. I think it’ll be interesting to see where all of this goes.”

Representatives of the five current cultivators filed a lawsuit against a Fort Smith cultivator, accusing it of being a dissolved LLC and also being too close to a school, as defined by a Medical Marijuana Commission memo. River Valley Relief Cultivation LLC was dissolved, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

The facility is located near a juvenile detention center, which the lawsuit claims is a violation of the commission’s stated rules. 

“Juvenile detention facilities cooperate with local school districts to provide school instruction that the individuals incarcerated would ordinally [sic] receive if not incarcerated,” a 2017 Medical Marijuana Commission memo stated. “Because schooling is provided in the facility by the local school district and recognized by the Arkansas Department of Education as a non-traditional school, real property operated as a juvenile detention facility will qualify as a school.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the cultivator’s license revoked.

“Osage Creek Cultivation, LLC, Delta Medical Cannabis Company, LLC, Bold Team, LLC, Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, LLC and Natural State Wellness Enterprises, LLC hereby respectfully request that the ABC immediately proceed with the revocation of the license issued to River Valley Production I on July 17, 2020,” the lawsuit stated.

Hardin said the LLC issue may prove to be a serious problem for the cultivator.

“Can the owner transfer ownership to the new name of the company?” Hardin said. “That could be an issue, but that’s something that’s under investigation, and we’ll have to see.”

The too-near-to-school issue could be remedied soon, Hardin said, referencing the owner’s initiative to move the site.

“The owner of that company has issued a transfer of location request the commission will hear next week,” Hardin said. “The company would stay in Fort Smith, but if its awarded, it wouldn’t be close to the school, the juvenile facility.”

If the commission doesn’t approve the request, an investigation into whether the detention center counts as a school would ensue, Hardin said, which could lead to a halt in operations.

“It would be really surprising if that happens,” Hardin said, citing the fact that the majority of transfer requests are approved.

These new cultivators were approved amid a spike in medical marijuana sales throughout the state, Hardin said. Four additional dispensaries were also approved.

“We now have eight cultivators in the state, and that’s the maximum,” Hardin said. “We won’t see any more unless there’s a statewide ballot initiative, and I don’t see that happening.”