Arkansas legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but not much has happened since then. Though the state has issued over 5,000 medical marijuana licenses, authorities have been slow to approve dispensaries and growers. In February, the state finally issued 5 marijuana grower licenses but was soon after taken to court by a failed applicant. The Arkansas Supreme Court is now reviewing the case that’s stopping cannabis growers from moving forward.
The State Issued Few Marijuana Grow Licenses
The licensing process was expensive, not to mention competitive. To even be in the running, potential Arkansas growers paid the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission $15,000 per application. In total, 95 businesses submitted applications, but only 5 received state approval. These 5 had to pay $100,000 on top of the application fee to proceed with the process.
Not everyone was pleased with Commission’s final decisions. Naturalis Health LLC, whose application the commission rejected, took the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to court. Judge Wendell Griffen presided over the case and ruled in Naturalis Health’s favor.
When Judge Griffen issued an injunction against the five licensed businesses, the entire licensing program came to a halt. The judge’s decision rendered the licenses “null and void,” at least for the time being,
Was Arkansas’ Review Process Unconstitutional?
Judge Wendell ruled that it was. He explained that the review process “created the appearance of bias in violation of due process of law.”
The Judge took issue with several aspects of this process. In certain cases, the commission issued licenses to applicants with whom they had a preexisting relationship. Additionally, the board did not research applicants’ taxation histories or enforce a minimum distance from schools and churches.
The Arkansas Supreme Court Is Reviewing This Case
Arkansas appealed Judge Wendell’s ruling, which brought the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court. On April 25th, they announced that the deadline to enter a plea is May 30th. The Court, parties involved and Arkansas residents are all hoping for a quick judgment.
Arkansas motion, read before the court, states: “A long appellate process during which implementation of Amendment 98 is delayed is contrary to the people’s intent in adopting Amendment 98 and thus contrary to the public interest.”
Timing is of the essence in this case. Since the Supreme Court goes on recess from June 21st through September 6th, it’s essential that they announce a ruling before the summer. If not, medical marijuana patients will have to wait even longer for dispensaries.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association’s attorney Alexis Gray is confident that the Supreme Court will reach a decision quickly. She explains, “It will definitely put this on a fast track for resolution, likely in early June.”
Medical Marijuana Is Closer Than Ever In Arkansas
Since 2016, Arkansas has been inching towards medical marijuana accessibility. After a slow reviewing process and legal hang-ups, it seems that the state’s Supreme Court will reach a swift resolution.
Not only is it important for patients have access to medical marijuana, but Arkansas has some of the most comprehensive medical marijuana programs in the South. Success in Arkansas could encourage surrounding states to do follow suit.