The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission outlined Tuesday how it will score applications to grow and distribute the drug in the state, where prospective businesses will begin filling out paperwork in about a month.
A final decision to approve the applications for cultivator and dispensary licenses will be made next week, the commissioners decided, in order to meet deadlines imposed by the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, which voters approved in November.
By June 20, the state must issue public notices that it will begin accepting applications to run those businesses starting June 30. The application period will last 90 days.
At an earlier meeting, the commission decided it would grant up to 32 dispensary licenses and five licenses for cultivation centers.
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Drafts of each type of application have already been prepared for the five commissioners. The drafts came in at 24 pages.
The application forms include five sections of required "merit criteria" -- plus optional bonus criteria -- which the commissioners will evaluate and score once all the applications are sent in.
During Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners agreed to limit the responses of applicants for a cultivator's license to 20 pages, including a summary.
However they later wavered, suggesting 20 pages may not be enough.
After a brief discussion -- in which lawyers on the commission argued for larger page limits, while doctors on the panel pushed for brevity -- the commission decided to hold off on setting page limits for potential distributors and revisit the issue next week.
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For both cultivator and dispensary licenses, the commission set the same standards for how they would weigh each of the five general sections of the application, out of 100 total points.
For example, the commissioners said applicants' responses to a section asking them to describe their financial resources would be worth 15 points; the section about an applicant's ability to operate a facility in line with laws and regulations is worth the biggest chunk, 50 points.
Applicants for either type of business can get up to 10 bonus points for meeting certain optional standards set by the state, including minority-group ownership, association with a medical doctor or pharmacist, or providing programs beneficial to the community.
The biggest point of disagreement among the commissioners was how specific to get in assigning points to smaller details in the application.
For example, the commissioners pondered whether they should break down how they would score the 50 points in the "ability to operate" section across five smaller subsections described in the draft.
Commissioner Stephen Carroll said the commission could be setting itself up for a lawsuit if it doesn't set clear, across-the-board standards.
"There needs to be some guidance to the applicant," Carroll said.
But his colleague, J. Carlos Roman, said getting into such details would be "micromanaging."
Roman argued that the commissioners should be able to consider their own preferences for some details over others when weighing the general sections of the application.
After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners decided to table the matter and asked the Department of Finance and Administration, which provides them with administrative support, to offer some examples for how to break down merit in applications.
An attorney for the agency, Joel DiPippa, said the revenue and legal department has experience defending lawsuits based on merit applications, and would provide the requested information.
He said the information would be available by the time the commission meets again next Tuesday to give final approval to the application forms.
Metro on 05/31/2017