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Arkansas justices agree to light fire under pot-growing licenses case

by Hunter Field | April 27, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
A file photo of marijuana is shown with a screenshot of the first page of Judge Wendell Griffen's order that placed an injunction on the permitting of Arkansas' first five cannabis growers.

The Arkansas Supreme Court this week agreed to speed its review of a circuit judge's ruling that has halted the issuance of Arkansas' first medical-marijuana growing licenses.

The high court, in a Wednesday order, set an expedited briefing schedule, putting May 30 as the deadline for the final pleading to be submitted.

The state appealed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's March order that placed an injunction on the permitting of Arkansas' first five cannabis growers. Griffen sided with unsuccessful permit applicant Naturalis Health LLC, ruling that the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission's process for scoring the 98 cultivation-license applications was flawed and unconstitutional.

Proponents of medical marijuana feared that the ruling and subsequent appeal would long delay the medical use of the drug, which voters legalized through Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution in 2016.

Alex Gray, an attorney for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association, said Thursday that the court's Wednesday order was good news for patients and medical-cannabis proponents.

"It will definitely put this on a fast track for resolution, likely in early June," Gray said, noting that a ruling likely would be made before the court's summer recess.

The state Supreme Court begins its summer break June 21 and returns for its fall term Sept. 6.

Griffen's order also stopped the Medical Marijuana Commission's review of more than 220 medical-marijuana dispensary applications.

In its request for an expedited appeal, the state argued that this case was a matter of significant public interest, and it noted that more than 5,000 medical-marijuana registry ID cards have already been issued by the state Health Department.

"Citizens of the State of Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana for fellow citizens suffering from chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening health challenges," state attorneys wrote in their motion. "A long appellate process during which implementation of Amendment 98 is delayed is contrary to the people's intent in adopting Amendment 98 and thus contrary to the public interest."

Also this week, state Supreme Court Justice Josephine Hart recused from the case. Chief Justice John Dan Kemp asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to appoint a special justice to replace her.

Metro on 04/27/2018

Print Headline: Justices agree to light fire under pot-growing licenses case


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