Hot Springs dispensary owner appeals state regulators' findings

Green Springs Medical Marijuana Dispensary is shown on Nov. 5, 2019. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record
Green Springs Medical Marijuana Dispensary is shown on Nov. 5, 2019. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record

The owner of Green Springs Medical is challenging violations state regulators alleged after a May 2021 inspection of the Seneca Street facility, the only licensed medical marijuana dispensary inside the city of Hot Springs.

The appeal Dragan Vicentic filed last month in Garland County Circuit Court seeks a judicial review of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board's affirmation of allegations stemming from the routine biannual inspection.

The Administrative Procedure Act subjects state agency rulings to judicial review. Vicentic petitioned Division 1 Circuit Judge Ralph Ohm to suspend enforcement of the board's ruling while the matter is under review. 

Ohm granted the state's request for more time to prepare the transcript from the Oct. 12 hearing. It has until March to respond to the petition.

According to materials the state provided in response to a records request, the board assessed a $28,200 fine and a 180-day probation effective Oct. 12. An additional $38,300 fine was suspended and will be waived pending successful completion of the probationary period.

The 2022 sales report the state Department of Finance and Administration released Friday showed the 2,534 pounds in sales Green Springs reported last year. It was ranked fifth out of 38 dispensaries, accounting for 5% of the 50,547 pounds sold statewide. Sales totaled $276.30 million last year, a more than 4% increase from the previous record established in 2021.

Suite 443, the other licensed dispensary in Garland County, ranked second, reporting sales of 3,724 pounds.

Vicentic argued the board interpreted rules governing medical marijuana operations too broadly.

"The evidence presented did not support the finding of the board and therefore the board's decision was clearly an unwarranted exercise of discretion," his petition said.

ABC agents who testified at the Oct. 12 board hearing said physical quantities of 28 of the 30 items that were audited didn't match quantities listed in the state's inventory tracking system. Discrepancies ranged from 0.15 grams to 469 grams.

"In addition, there were multiple prepackaged items such as edibles and medical cannabis vape cartridges that were missing," according to the review of evidence offered at the hearing.

Vicentic testified that discrepancies between on-site quantities and amounts listed in the inventory tracking system could be attributed to moisture loss.

"Other non-flower items that were missing represented only a very small portion of his total inventory," according to a summary of his testimony.

Vicentic's petition said the board ignored explanations he offered at the hearing, choosing instead to focus on why he had appealed the ABC director's order to the board.

"The ABC inspects medical marijuana dispensaries twice a year as a matter of standard operating procedure," he said in an email to The Sentinel-Record. "There was a perfectly logical explanation and clarification for each of the alleged violations. That's why we have asked for a more impartial judicial review.

"As a matter of fact there are many dispensaries that have far more alleged violations than we have experienced in our three and a half years of operation."

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