Arkansas Supreme Court paves way for medical cannabis program launch

The Arkansas Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to launch its medical marijuana program, reversing a lower court ruling that prevented officials from issuing the first grower licenses.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the state’s process for awarding medical marijuana cultivation licenses was unconstitutional.

He said the process violated the 2016 voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana for patients with certain conditions in Arkansas.

Griffen’s order had prevented the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission from awarding cultivation licenses to five businesses it had identified as the top-scoring firms among 95 applicants that sought the permits.

In response to the ruling, the state also halted its review of more than 220 MMJ dispensary applications.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Griffen did not have jurisdiction to halt the licenses.

The court said the Arkansas Constitution prevents one branch of government from exercising another branch’s power.

Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, said the agency was reviewing the decision to determine the next steps in the licensing process.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by an unsuccessful applicant that argued the process for awarding the licenses was flawed. The company, Naturalis Health, cited two potential conflicts of interest by members of the commission.

The court’s expedited ruling did not mention a letter the attorney general’s office filed with the court detailing a commissioner’s claim that he had rejected a bribe by another unsuccessful applicant.

The letter, which was unsealed hours after justices heard the case over the halted licenses, said the bribery allegation remained unsubstantiated and was being investigated by law enforcement.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily

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