Three days after Arkansas medical-marijuana regulators, acting on court orders, canceled a Fort Smith grower's cultivation license, a higher court blocked that move Thursday, leaving ownership of the permit with its original receiver, at least for the time being.
The Arkansas Supreme Court was called to intervene in an appeal by the grower Bennett “Storm” Nolan and his company, River Valley Production LLC of Fort Smith, doing business as River Valley Relief Cultivation.
They have called on the high court to overturn the decision to void Nolan's ownership of the permit. In an unsigned order Thursday, the justices stayed the decision to void Nolan's ownership of the license while simultaneously promising to fast-track Nolan's appeal of the process.
This the first challenge from Nolan to reach the Arkansas Supreme Court in his bid to keep the license, which is the last of eight cultivation licenses allowed by law. Last month, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright ordered regulators to take the license back after finding that Nolan's company had not been qualified to receive the cultivation permit in 2020.
His ruling was in response to a 2021 lawsuit by a Jacksonville company, 2600 Holdings LLC, doing business as Southern Roots Cultivation, that claims it should have gotten the license instead.
Nolan and company attempted to join the suit, which targeted only the regulating state agencies, the Medical Marijuana Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, to defend their interest. But they were twice rebuffed by the judge, who ruled that they had waited too long to get involved in the suit, which revolved around issues raised back as far as 2017. Nolan and his company have challenged the Pulaski County circuit judge's ruling in an appeal that has yet to make it before the high court.
This new fast-track appeal brings to the high court now Nolan's complaints that his constitutional right to due process has been violated because the loss of the permit would cost him the millions invested in the operation and put its 75 employees out their jobs on the eve of the Christmas season.
Further, losing the permit now would force the company to destroy almost $7 million in inventory and eliminate about 12.5% of a medicine relied on by many suffering Arkansas residents.
CORRECTION: Cannabis grower Bennett “Storm” Nolan and his company, River Valley Production LLC of Fort Smith, doing business as River Valley Relief Cultivation, have filed one appeal that has reached the Arkansas Supreme Court in their effort to retain their state medical marijuana cultivation permit after it was revoked by state regulators on the orders of a Pulaski County circuit judge. An earlier version of this story misstated the number of appeals before the high court by Nolan and his company. Also, an earlier version of this story and an earlier version of this correction transposed Nolan’s first and last names.