FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County's Quorum Court denied 11-3 Thursday a permit for a proposed marijuana cultivation facility near Lincoln and Cane Hill.
The move reversed a decision by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustments to allow a permit for Native Flower last month. Native Flower can appeal the Quorum Court's decision to the Circuit Court.
The Medical Marijuana Commission began taking applications to license five cultivation sites and 32 dispensaries in June. The commission was expected to award licenses sometime after Sept. 18, which was the deadline for applications. A decision about the permits is expected in February. Voters approved an amendment legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying medical conditions last year.
Source: Staff report
How they voted
The Washington County Quorum Court denied a permit for Native Flower, a proposed medical marijuana manufacturing center near Lincoln and Cane Hill. Justices of the peace voting against a permit were Republicans Bill Ussery, Fred Rausch, Butch Pond, Joe Patterson, Joel Maxwell, Lisa Ecke, Robert Dennis, Alicia Deavens and Harvey Bowman and Democrats Ann Harbison and Sue Madison. Justices of the peace voting for the permit were Democrats Joseph Kieklak, Eva Maidson and Daniel Balls. Justice of the Peace Tom Lundstrum was absent.
Source: Staff report
Native Flower, which is listed as a nonprofit organization with the secretary of state, proposed building a 1.5-acre facility on 48 acres with a 4,160-square-foot work center, or "head house," and four 3,840-square-foot greenhouses, county records show. The property is in the southwestern portion of the county off of Bush Road, records show.
The property could have become one of five facilities for growing pot for medical use, if the state approved it for a license. It also would have come back through the planning process for a large-scale development, which looks at specifics such as material, Senior Planner Nathan Crouch said.
The Quorum Court's decision doesn't affect the state application, he said.
The property is zoned for agriculture and residential home use. Property zoned as agriculture, for example, wouldn't need a permit for a hog farm, planners said. Planners considered the center industrial, which required Quorum Court ratification.
Native Flower met minimum requirements for a permit, Crouch said. But, the property is in a rural area, with two one-way bridges and little traffic, justices of the peace said. The facility would impede neighbors using and enjoying their property and is a morality issue, neighbor Shane Grisham said.
Two neighbors wrote to the Planning Department in support of the facility. One opposed it, planners said.
Grisham, who owns property to the north of the site, said he's concerned about a possible influx of crime, more traffic and lower property value. Grisham is building a $300,000 home for his family on 11 acres.
Representatives for Native Flower didn't come to the meeting. No one spoke in favor of the center Thursday.
"It's different from a greenhouse," Grisham said. "What comes out the door is a pharmaceutical product."
The property might not sell later, too, he said.
"The property values, I think that's obvious, that in our area there are a lot of conservatives who wouldn't buy property next to a pot house because of morality," Grisham said.
Justice of the Peace Robert Dennis, a Republican who represents the area including Farmington, said he was against the proposal, even if it possibly brought in tax revenue for the county.
"Do you want to sell your soul to the devil?" Dennis asked. "I'm not struggling with this -- I'm totally against it. It's wrong."
Other justices of the peace said the issue wasn't about morality but whether the center was suitable for the area. The center should be in an industrial park or near the Washington County Detention Center, not in a rural family setting.
"This is a large institutional facility with razor wire -- that's scary to think about in rural Washington County where people are trying raise their children in a pastoral setting," said Justice of the Peace Sue Madison, a Democrat representing southeastern Fayetteville.
Justice of the Peace Eva Madison, a Democrat representing northeastern Fayetteville, said Arkansas voters have approved medical marijuana use and she cautioned justices of the peace about using morality as a reason to deny the center. The board approved the center after asking for comments from the Sheriff's Office and Road Department.
"I'm concerned too many people on this court are hung up on the morality issue on this, that they are trying to legislate morality," Madison said. "If you are hung up on Arkansas having medical marijuana, that ship has sailed."
NW News on 12/22/2017
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