Regulatory panel to ratify medical pot licenses next week; not likely to expand license list

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 435 views 

The state Medical Marijuana Commission will ratify the scores and vote next week to accept the five applicants awarded the state’s first cultivator licenses on Feb. 23 to grow and supply medical cannabis products for approved Arkansas patients or care providers.

Scott Hardin, a state Department of Finance and Administration spokesman for the medical marijuana regulatory panel, told Talk Business & Politics that all five of the winning cultivators met the state’s requirement to pay a $100,000 licensing fee and post a $500,000 performance bond within seven days.

“Each company among the top five scores has now been processed. The companies (will be) licensed after next week’s meeting and may begin construction immediately,” said Hardin.

At the upcoming board meeting on March 14 at the headquarters of the Arkansas Beverage Control Board, the Commission is expected to discuss swirling concerns raised by some of the 95 applicants after the February meeting that the scoring by the five-person regulatory panel was inconsistent and prejudicial.

Some non-winning applicants have lobbied lawmakers and are seeking ways to push the Commission to expand the number of cultivation licenses beyond the five initial winners, something Hardin told TB&P the agency may look at in the future but not now.

“While the Commission is approved to issue a total of eight cultivation licenses, it was determined that five would adequately service Arkansas’ needs,” Hardin said. “Should the need arise in the future for additional cultivation facilities, the Commission has the option to open a new application period. There is obviously a tremendous amount of interest from applicants in the potential for additional licenses.”

Hardin continued: “There are those encouraging the Commission to consider issuing the three additional licenses immediately. However, the plan has been and remains five total cultivation licenses at this point. Considering three additional licenses now is contrary to the rules and procedures established by the Commission.”

Following are the five companies selected to blossom the state’s newest industry from the startup stage to an expected $70-million-dollar industry by 2025.

• Natural State Medicinals Cultivation in Jefferson County
• Bold Team LLC in Woodruff County
• Natural State Wellness Enterprises in Jackson County
• Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County
• Delta Medical Cannabis Company in in Jackson County.

Among these Arkansas-based companies selected out of 95 applicants to receive one of the prized cultivation licenses to grow and supply pot for qualified Arkansas health patients and caregivers with a state-approve medical marijuana registry card, four of the proposals for startup pot greenhouses are planning to locate in Delta counties with rich agriculture histories and few job prospects.

In addition, two of the companies that submitted winning applications out of the nearly 100 proposals filed are based in Jonesboro, the largest Delta city in the agri-rich eastern half of the state that encompasses all of 15 counties and portions of 10 others.

Hardin said Natural State Wellness, which had two of the top six scores, has chosen to locate its cultivation facility in Jackson County because AMMC rules limited the Jonesboro partnership to ownerships stakes in only one cultivation and one dispensary location. Natural State Wellness also submitted a winning application for a location in Jefferson County, where Little Rock-based Natural State Medicinals Cultivation is also planning to locate its pot greenery.

Under the Commission’s 500-point scoring system approved by the state legislature nearly a year ago, Natural State Medicinals had the highest score with 486. According to a tabulation of individual scores supplied to TB&P by the AMMC staff, the five commissioners all gave the Little Rock partnership grades between 93 and 99. No other applicant scored higher than 445 or received marks above 90 from all commissioners.