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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2019 file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Arkansas is back in the business of licensing medical marijuana dispensaries after a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Tuesday that a former dispensary applicant, Medicanna of Pine Bluff, has no grounds to challenge licensing procedure.

Capping a five-hour hearing Tuesday, Judge Wendell Griffen dismissed Medicanna's lawsuit against state regulators and dissolved his week-old order prohibiting the state Medical Marijuana Commission from licensing any new dispensaries until the Medicanna suit was resolved.

Licenses are awarded based on grades, and Medicanna, represented at the hearing by managing partner Elizabeth Parker, had accused the commission of illegally bypassing it to license a lower-graded applicant.

But Griffen sided with state lawyers Maryna Jackson and Olan Reeves of the attorney general's office, who argued that Medicanna had disqualified itself when it asked for and received a refund of its application fee more than 10 months ago.

The law requires a qualified applicant to pay an application fee to be considered for a license. So once Medicanna got its money back in April 2019, it did not meet the standard to receive the license, which went to another Pine Bluff applicant, Nature's Herbs and Wellness of Arkansas, last month.

"Medicanna has not been harmed. Medicanna got the [refund] it requested," the judge said. "Medicanna essentially rescinded its application."

Griffen said Medicanna was like a card player who had cashed out his winnings but was trying to get back in the game.

"As of April 2019, Medicanna no longer had a stake in the game," the judge said. "Once you step out of the competition, you are no longer entitled to complain whether other people are more worthy competitors."

Medicanna attorney Chris Burks told the judge that the commission had relied on a "phantom rule" to bypass the company for a license, and the judge was critical of the commission when its lawyers could not produce a written copy of the rule for him, despite contending the rule had been approved almost a year ago.

Burks told the judge that Medicanna would decide in the coming days, after Griffen's ruling was put into writing, whether to appeal.

Metro on 03/04/2020

Print Headline: Judge tosses lawsuit on pot-outlet license

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