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Judge rules state's licensing process for 1st medical marijuana growers unconstitutional

By Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Staff and Wire Reports

This article was originally published March 21, 2018 at 11:18 a.m. Updated March 21, 2018 at 5:51 p.m.

a-file-photo-of-marijuana-is-shown-with-a-screenshot-of-the-first-page-of-judge-wendell-griffens-order

A file photo of marijuana is shown with a screenshot of the first page of Judge Wendell Griffen's order.

A Pulaski County circuit judge on Wednesday declared Arkansas’ licensing process for its first five medical marijuana growing facilities unconstitutional.

Judge Wendell Griffen in a Wednesday order granted a disgruntled growing permit applicant’s request for a preliminary injunction and declaratory judgement, saying "the licensing decisions and rankings rendered by the Medical Marijuana Commission must not stand, and are, hereby, declared null and void.”

[DOCUMENT: Read the judge's full order]

Griffen sided with Naturalis Health LLC on several arguments the company made in a lawsuit. Specifically, Griffen said the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division failed to verify key facts about whether some facilities were in compliance with state regulations.

Griffen said the process for awarding the licenses was compromised by potential conflicts of interest by commissioners who scored the applications, including one whose law firm represents the owners of one of facilities that was going to receive a license in non-marijuana related matters. Another commissioner is a physician who routinely refers patients to the medical practice of another doctor who is a part owner of a cultivation facility.

[DOCUMENTS: Read complaints filed + winning applications from top five growers]

In his ruling, Griffen said he "takes no joy" in blocking the state from issuing the licenses.

"The prospect that Arkansans must now endure more delay before gaining much needed access to locally grown medical marijuana should be unpleasant to anyone concerned about providing relief to people who suffer from serious illnesses," Griffen wrote.

The attorney general's office said it was reviewing Griffen's ruling and discussing it with state officials, but did not say whether it planned to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The state, however, has said that the applications scored by the commissioners were redacted and did not include any identifying information about the applicants.

Griffen said the state also failed to verify applicants' assertions that the primary entrance for their proposed facilities would be at least 3,000 feet from school, churches and daycare centers, the distance required by the medical marijuana amendment.

Naturalis Health LLC, the applicant that sued over the process, has said it wants an independent evaluator to re-score the applications for the cultivation facilities.

"We're very grateful for the judge's decision and look forward to what comes next," Jay Bequette, an attorney for Naturalis, said.

The five-member commission had already begun reviewing applications for dispensaries to sell medical marijuana with the hopes of awarding the 32 licenses for those facilities as soon as May. A spokesman for the commission said the court's order was being reviewed to determine the next steps regarding that process.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Hunter Field and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Comments on: Judge rules state's licensing process for 1st medical marijuana growers unconstitutional

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Testingonetwothree says... March 21, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

Griffin is a news hog. All he wants is his name in the paper. What a waste of time... the powers that be need to remove him from office.

( | suggest removal )

dapop6 says... March 21, 2018 at 11:46 a.m.

fair is fair.......thats all i want it to be..

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Kofcguy says... March 21, 2018 at 12:09 p.m.

Holy moly! An Arkansas judge deems something unconstitutional? Now if we could just get Arkansas judges to follow the US Constitution we could prevent the traumatic violation of families by DHS CPS that destroys families and puts children into foster homes when it is unnecessary. The horrific DHS CPS foster system needs to have oversight.

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idratherbesailing says... March 21, 2018 at 12:37 p.m.

I love the part that says : two commissioners’ relationships with the owners of two companies that scored in the top five. It's not if you are fair, or what you know, as usual it's WHO you know in Arkypolitics. Bidness as usual. We are a cesspool of graft and collusion. This is one instance I stand with Griffin, although it's quite possible he's doing it because his man got cut out.

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GDB58 says... March 21, 2018 at 12:44 p.m.

ABC should be shut down and investigated.

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drs01 says... March 21, 2018 at 2:28 p.m.

When people voted for this medical marijuana I knew it would be a real clusterf*** getting it off the ground. Law enforcement didn't want it. State legislature didn't want it. Judges didn't want it. So you could expect exactly what is happening now. Everyone who isn't smoking it now knows that these five licensees will be instant Millionaires, maybe even more so when medical becomes recreational in a few years. There is a lot of money at stake, so expect more delays, and more delays. Maybe by the time I need the joints they will be available.

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JMort69 says... March 21, 2018 at 3:22 p.m.

Big surprise. The Story/Ballinger/Duggar/Trulove cult strikes again. With the involvement of Story and Ballinger in the Ecclesia College stinky mess, none of us should be shocked. Clearly Story rigged his scoring and the licensees, the Truloves, donated $1,000.00 to Ballinger's senate campaign a few months before the licenses were issued. This cult of freaks from the Springdale/Berryville area all need to be booted out of any state affiliation. I figure the feds will take care of Ballinger and, before the Stephens, who filed the lawsuit on MM are done, this MM Commission will be castrated. As someone who is waiting for this all to be implemented, I want the best business people to develop this industry. And, like it or not, they are going to be the people with the most money. I really don't think the Truloves, who are in the dirt business in Berryville, quite rank up there with the Stephens. It seems to all be crashing down on the heads of these oh-so-holy rollers. Soon, they will be doing them some real praying, hopefully from their jail cells.

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RUST5914 says... March 21, 2018 at 3:25 p.m.

"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime". Balzac.

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DonN says... March 21, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

Wonder if he has any vested interest in who is granted a permit/license.

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Defiant says... March 21, 2018 at 5:04 p.m.

It's Wendell Griffin, so it's not like it's a REAL judge.

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