Russellville marijuana dispensary sued the city’s mayor and aldermen last week after the City Council denied its request for a special-use permit.
The Russellville City Council rejected 420 RX’s permit request in a 4-4 vote on May 16, despite unanimous approval from both the city staff and Planning Commission. Mayor Richard Harris declined to cast a deciding vote, saying he was conflicted on the matter and wanted to leave the decision solely with the council, according to a transcript of the meeting.
The dispensary, 420 RX, appealed the denial to circuit court, arguing that the mayor and City Council members shouldn’t have let their personal objections to medical cannabis affect their votes on the zoning permit.
“The Russellville City Council and the Russellville Mayor based their denial of [420 RX’s] application on their disapproval of Arkansas law regarding medical marijuana as set forth in Amendment 98 of the Arkansas Constitution,” the suit states. “The only issue before the Russellville City Council on [420 RX’s] application should have been the legitimacy of the proposed ‘use’ of the property.”
420 RX is one of Arkansas’ 32 licensed dispensaries. The first two dispensaries opened in early May, and additional dispensaries are expected to open in the next week or two.
Some cities have voted to bar any medical marijuana companies from locating there by ordinance, but 420 RX represents the first case of a city denying an individual cannabis company’s use-permit request.
In addition to seeking relief in circuit court, the dispensary could ask the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to allow it to locate in a different place.
A company official told council members that the company may consider moving its operations into the county, which doesn’t have zoning requirements. However, the official noted that 420 RX preferred to stay in the city so that Russellville could benefit from its sales tax revenue.