Natural State of Kind became the first applicant for a medical-marijuana business license to go public, in an announcement Thursday evening.
The business is seeking both a dispensary license and a cultivation license. So far, it is one of two businesses to seek a license to grow medical marijuana and one of five seeking a license to sell medical marijuana in a storefront, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration. The state isn't releasing the applications prior to the Sept. 18 deadline.
Natural State of Kind has a plan to grant franchises to the independent owners of other dispensaries. Investors cannot own an interest in more than one cultivation facility or dispensary under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment approved by voters in November. The amendment will allow those with qualifying medical needs to obtain the drug when it becomes available.
Jason Martin, chief executive officer of Natural State of Kind, said in an interview he went public because he wanted to praise regulators for their work to quickly implement the amendment authorizing medical marijuana in Arkansas.
"This has been dumped in their laps. They're chins-up, smiling, and they're trying to do the best job they can do," he said. "That's unlike, I can tell you what, Denver, Colorado, for quite a while. They're rude. They don't care. It's burdensome to them as an employee. Arkansas remains hospitable even though they've had all this dumped on them."
Martin, an Arkansas resident, said his investors are all Arkansas-based. Rules adopted by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission require 60 percent of the ownership of dispensaries and cultivation facilities to be held by Arkansans. The product sold in state must be grown here.
He said that after the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act failed in 2012, he started looking to other states to start a marijuana business.
"We've been in the industry -- around the industry -- since 2012 everywhere it's been legal," Martin said. "It just continues to grow, and we're excited about it being here in Arkansas. This is where we wanted to do it all along, and unfortunately for us, when it didn't pass in 2012, we decided not to let it hold us back from being in the industry."
He began in Colorado and is now involved in marijuana and industrial hemp operations in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Kentucky and North Carolina.
If both state licenses are approved by the Medical Marijuana Commission by the end of the year, Martin said, he would expect to begin selling medical marijuana to the public in mid-2018.
Hundreds of applicants are expected for the 32 dispensary and five cultivation facility slots, which will be judged on the merit of their applications under a process developed by the commission and reviewed by state lawmakers. Applications for medical-marijuana business licenses are due Sept. 18.
If his applications are approved, Martin plans to hire between 25 and 35 employees in his cultivation facility and 14 to 20 in his dispensary. He declined to say where he plans to locate his facilities but said he would share that information after the application period closes later this month.
He said Natural State of Kind aims to be known for consistency.
"If you're the guy going into the grocery store and you're going down the condiment aisle, when you go to pick up ketchup, what do you buy? You're a Heinz or a Hunt's person. And you're that way because it's consistent. It's the same thing no matter if you buy it at Kroger, you buy it at Wal-Mart, you buy it at Target, wherever," Martin said.
"When you come into our location today to buy something, two weeks later or two months later, you can buy the same product and get the exact same result."
That's a trait he said is especially important for medical products.
Beyond Martin, others have praised Arkansas regulators for their handling of medical marijuana.
"I've got to say, Arkansas is probably the fastest-moving state I've ever seen," James Yagielo, chief executive of Florida-based HempStaff, said in an interview last week. "They actually set a timeline and have lived up to it where most other states don't do that. It looks like it's actually going to progress pretty quickly out there."
Metro on 09/01/2017
*CORRECTION Natural State of Kind is among the first medical marijuana businesses to apply for a license in Arkansas. An article in Friday’s editions misidentified the name of the business.
Print Headline: Name of first pot-business applicant emerges