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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)

Medical marijuana dispensary Native Green Wellness appears to be moving ahead with a plan to open a dispensary at a renovated property on Cantrell Road in Little Rock after a decision by the state commission on medical marijuana to grant the company a license in the city.

The location for the proposed new dispensary is 3720 Cantrell Road, a former tire and auto service shop next to Allsopp Park. The centrally located property is about 2 miles from popular eateries in the Heights neighborhood.

According to an application submitted to the Little Rock Department of Planning and Development, with the city's approval, the owner plans to "make much needed interior modifications as well as facade modifications to turn the building into a usable medical marijuana dispensary."

Records from the Pulaski County assessor's office show that the property, previously home to Mathis Tire, changed hands in January and is now owned by Koon Properties LLC.

[RELATED: See complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of medical marijuana in Arkansas at]

Walter Koon, whom the permit application lists as the contractor on the project, is the father of Kattie Hansen, the company's CEO. Together they own a majority stake in Native Green Wellness.

Earlier this week, Hansen responded to an email requesting comment on the building permit application for 3720 Cantrell Road and said she would answer questions on the Little Rock dispensary location, but she did not respond to follow-up questions.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission in late June issued four more dispensary licenses, including one to Native Green Wellness in Zone 5, which includes Pulaski County.

According to Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Native Green Wellness' latest dispensary was originally to be located at 14910 Arch St. in Little Rock, but in July the company applied for, and received, a transfer of address for the license to the Cantrell Road location.

That same month, legal wrangling kicked off in Pulaski County Circuit Court between Native Green Wellness, the state and a competing dispensary company, with the competitor seeking to undermine the decision to award Native Green Wellness the license in Little Rock.

Green Thumb Industries Arkansas claimed in a lawsuit that the Little Rock license was improperly awarded to Native Green Wellness because Hansen's mother, Anita Koon, held a minority stake in a new LLC that took over Native Green's license to operate a dispensary in Saline County in March, as well as a stake in Native Green Wellness when it was awarded the Little Rock license.

Amendment 98 of the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in 2016, legalized medical marijuana in the state. The text of the medical-marijuana law says no individual may own an interest in more than one dispensary.

Green Thumb Industries argued that because Walter Koon's wife held an 8% ownership stake in a company to which the Saline County license was transferred while also holding an 8% stake in the company that eventually received the license, granting the Little Rock license to Native Green Wellness was illegal, and resulted in Green Thumb Industries losing out on the license.

After Green Thumb Industries Arkansas sued the Department of Finance and Administration, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and the Medical Marijuana Commission, Judge Mary S. McGowan granted a temporary restraining order in July barring state officials from finalizing the transfer of the Little Rock dispensary license to Native Green Wellness.

Last month, McGowan granted Native Green Wellness' motion to intervene in the case based on the fact that the dispensary is a license recipient and had a right to defend the action. On Aug. 7, the judge dissolved the temporary restraining order.

In an Aug. 20 motion to dismiss the lawsuit, an attorney for the state wrote that the change of address to Cantrell Road was approved in a July 21 marijuana commission meeting, before Green Thumb Industries filed its lawsuit, meaning Native Green Wellness already owned the license, rendering its competitor's claims moot.

The state also claimed that from March 11 through the present, Anita Koon has had no stake in Native Green Wellness.

A senior assistant attorney general representing the state wrote that "there is nothing in Amendment 98 or the [Medical Marijuana Commission]'s rules that prohibit family members or associates from owning interests in multiple licenses."

"The Amendment only prohibits an 'individual' from owning an interest in more than one dispensary, and there are no credible allegations in the complaint to show that the MMC issued the license to Native Green in violation of that provision," attorney Jennifer Merritt wrote in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

McGowan has not ruled on the motion to dismiss.


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