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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.”