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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

An ethics complaint accusing a member of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission of a conflict of interest was dismissed Friday.

The Arkansas Ethics Commission concluded that the law cited in the complaint didn't apply to Commissioner Travis Story when he was scoring applications for Arkansas' first medical marijuana growing licenses.

Olly Neal, a retired state Court of Appeals judge, made the complaint; Neal of Marianna also is a stakeholder in one of the companies that applied unsuccessfully for a license.

In the complaint, Neal cited a state law (Arkansas Code Annotated 19-111-718) that prohibits "special state employees," like state commission members, from acting in their official capacities on a "procurement matter" in cases where a conflict of interest exists.

The complaint pointed to legal work that Story's law firm had done for some of the owners of one of the five companies that scored highly enough to receive one of the five coveted growing permits.

Ethics Commission Director Graham Sloan in a Friday letter said the law Neal cited doesn't apply in Story's case because the awarding of medical marijuana licenses is not a procurement matter.

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

"There was no evidence that the state is purchasing or disposing of commodities or services with respect to the matter in question," Sloan wrote in his dismissal letter to Story. "Instead, the [Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission] is issuing licenses which grant permission for cultivation licenses to grow marijuana and sell it to dispensaries and issuing licenses which grant permission for dispensary licensees to sell marijuana to patients."

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Story's relationship to the Trulove family, which owns Osage Creek Cultivation, has remained a point of contention for a group of unsuccessful cultivation license applicants that wants the application process to be re-evaluated.

Story and his law partner, state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, have helped Jay and Mary Trulove with corporate filings for a handful of businesses unrelated to medical marijuana. The firm also represented the family in a land-use dispute.

Ballinger in March said the firm didn't represent the Truloves in any matter related to the medical marijuana industry; Story and the other commissioners have avoided making any public statements since receiving the 95 applications for cultivation facilities in December.

Neal's complaint and several lawsuits have spotlighted that Story gave Osage Creek the second-highest score of any applications he reviewed. Other commissioners, however, also gave Osage Creek favorable scores, in some cases, higher than Story.

The commission is waiting two weeks for an Arkansas Supreme Court decision to be finalized before continuing with its process for issuing the first cannabis growing licenses. A lower court judge in March had halted the process, in part, because of the appearance of bias in scoring related to Story and another commissioner.

The high court ruled Thursday that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen didn't have the authority to toss out the scoring process, clearing the way for the issuance of licenses.

It remains unclear how the commissioners will react to the numerous allegations and discrepancies in scoring that have been made public since they released their rankings in February. A commission spokesman said Thursday that the next steps would be revealed once the court's ruling is finalized.

Metro on 06/23/2018

Print Headline: Pot-case conflict filing is rejected

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Comments

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  • 23cal
    June 23, 2018 at 6:55 a.m.

    So....when will the will of the people actually be implemented and the suffering allowed to purchase a little surcease from pain? How much longer are we looking at before it is actually on the shelf? Another year?
    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • JMort69
    June 23, 2018 at 8:12 a.m.

    Just another "ethics" debacle. Who is this "ethics" panel and what is their definition of "conflict"? Its just so ridiculous to even hear the word "ethics" in Arkansas at this point. I have no confidence that anyone in Little Rock knows the meaning of the word. And, clearly, Story/Ballinger knew these were their clients and chose not to disclose it when Story was appointed to the MM Commission. The guy who appointed him, former Speaker Jeremy Gillam, was led by the "Lord" to step down the day before this mess hit the fan. What was he running from? Story and Ballinger think they are teflon dons and nothing will stick to them. Well, we'll see. If I had the feds breathing down my neck like the legislature does, I wouldn't be strutting around, beating my chest and bragging about my innocence. I'll tell you what, why don't we just forget about ethics and this absurd panel until we can rid ourselves of all of the crooks in our state house. Then, we can start over with people who actually understand the concept of ethics. That ain't this crooked bunch.

  • MaxCady
    June 23, 2018 at 10:26 a.m.

    Nothing but GREED! Pure and simple. This is ridiculous!

  • MaxCady
    June 23, 2018 at 2:16 p.m.

    And a retired judge!! There ya go.

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    June 23, 2018 at 5:34 p.m.

    yeah, yeah, yeah, quit whining that you didn't get picked ,move aside and let's get on with it.
    By the way who is going to tackle going after medicare and other insurance companies to cover medical marijuana like they do oxycodone ?

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    June 23, 2018 at 5:40 p.m.

    Jmort you do realize that the initial holdup was due to a suit being filed and Judge Giffen putting a hold on everything? are you suggesting we not have judicial recourse when we believe our rights have been trampled upon ? i'm assuming that this delay can occur in any state governed by our laws.If not please let me know which state is exempt.

  • NoUserName
    June 23, 2018 at 6:26 p.m.

    Arkansas is exempt from her own laws, you dolt. In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that Griffen doesn't have jurisdiction. So, not much recourse there, right? While I sympathize with those who need marijuana, and I think it should be completely legal, the process by which these 5 firms got approval was downright ridiculous. An independent group should take over and start from scratch. And I only hope the Feds find something on Story, Ballinger, and the rest of those crooks.

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