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A Boston-based consulting firm was recently chosen to grade 203 medical Arkansas marijuana dispensary applications.

The agreement to score dispensary applications was signed Thursday by Public Consulting Group of Boston, which submitted the winning bid of $99,472. The other bid, from ICF Inc., was for $361,514. The firm will have 30 days to grade the applicants after they are received.

River Valley Relief in Fort Smith is one of the 203 applicants that will be graded. The Fort Smith-based group also has a cultivation license application pending due to an investigation into the five licensees previously approved by the Medical Marijuana Commission.

“Our cultivation application prospects are currently in the hands of ABC Enforcement’s investigation into the top five licensees,” Storm Nolan of River Valley Relief stated.

Nolan also said River Valley Relief was “very pleased” the commission has allowed a third-party to score dispensary applications.

“We believe this will help ensure a fair, accurate, and timely scoring process so that we, as an industry, can start providing patients with the medicine to which they are entitled,” Nolan wrote.

Several applicants for cultivation facilities filed protests, noting a variety of issues such as violation of commission rules to the proximity of some facilities to school-age children.

The commission voted in July to keep cultivation applications active for 24 months in case one of the five companies awarded a grower’s license surrenders the license or has it revoked. It followed a June reversal by the Arkansas Supreme Court of a lower court ruling that had prevented Arkansas from awarding the licenses due to concerns of impropriety. The commission also voted in July by a split 3-2 vote to hire an outside consultant to score the applications for the state’s first cannabis dispensaries.

Two commissioners’ terms are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The commission is expected to meet again Monday to discuss new rules.

A meeting is set to be scheduled between the five members of the Medical Marijuana Commission and officials from Public Consulting Group to discuss the scoring process. The meeting will be in the normal meeting location, 1515 W. Seventh St., fifth floor, via teleconference.

A total of 227 dispensary applications were submitted to the commission, but 24 did not meet minimum qualifications for a variety of reasons, the DFA adds.