Judge bars state Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing additional dispensary licenses

FILE - In this June 17, 2015, file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

A Pulaski County judge on Tuesday barred the state Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing additional dispensary licenses throughout Arkansas.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen granted a hopeful dispensary operator's request for a temporary restraining order. Medicanna of Pine Bluff had sued the commission because it was overlooked for a fifth dispensary license being issued in southeast Arkansas.

The additional license instead was issued to Nature’s Herbs and Wellness of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, which received a lower application score. The commission issued a license to Nature’s Herbs and Wellness of Arkansas over Medicanna because Medicanna had received a partial refund of its application fee, which the commission determined meant that its application was withdrawn from license consideration.

Griffen in his order wrote that Medicanna had demonstrated a “substantial likelihood” that it could successfully argue that the commission had violated the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act. The order prohibits the issuance of additional dispensary licenses and “any further action” on Nature’s Herbs and Wellness of Arkansas’ license.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control, which houses the Medical Marijuana Commission, declined to comment on the suit last week, and a spokesman for the agency couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after the order was issued Tuesday.

Chris Burks, an attorney for Medicanna, said that the company was pleased Griffen had issued the order, and it believed it would receive a license if the commission “follows its own rules.”

The commission decided last month to explore issuing additional dispensary licenses because nearly half of Arkansas’ 32 dispensaries remain inoperable a year after the permits were issued.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.