Medical Marijuana

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The five companies selected to cultivate medical marijuana in Arkansas should soon be able to set up shop and begin growing. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, said Friday that since the top companies were named last week by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, all have met their  required financial obligations.

"Over the past week we’ve been receiving the licensing fees from the companies, we’ve been receiving the performance bonds, and as of this morning, all five companies have paid," Hardin said.

A medical marijuana firm originally from northeast Arkansas has chosen to build its cultivation plant in the Pine Bluff area.

Natural State Wellness Enterprises had its choice of either Jackson or Jefferson counties because two of its applications were chosen among the top five. But the firm picked Jefferson County on Friday because the state's new medical marijuana law only permits the company to operate one facility.

Company spokesman Bart Calhoun said Monday that the decision was based on economic incentives and the county's central location.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission members Dr. Carlos Roman and James Miller at Tuesday's meeting.
Bobby Amppezan / Arkansas Public Media

A key step in the implementation of Arkansas's voter-approved medical marijuana program took place Tuesday, as five companies were announced who are being offered licenses to grow marijuana. 95 had applied. 

The winning companies were scored individually by the members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, with key information such as names and other details redacted so there would be no favoritism in who was awarded licenses.

When the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration announces its five highest scoring applicants to own and operate a marijuana cultivation facility for the state's germinating medical marijuana industry, it will be a surprise to the Medical Marijuana Commission who scored the 95 applicants.

"These 95 applications were scored individually by each commissioner. They were then brought back to the Alcoholic Beverage Control office [and] turned in individually; so at this point the commissioners are also going to learn along with everyone else those top five scores," Scott Hardin, spokesman for the department, said Monday.

Bill Essert hasn't lived in Arkansas in years. He's a businessman for an agriculture technology company in Cotati, California — BioTherm.

"What we do, we’re showing two things, the O2 Tube, which is all about dissolved oxygen and enhancing the amount of dissolved oxygen by infusing oxygen into your irrigation water, and the benefits of this is enhancing growth, plant growth, higher yields, less fungus and more yield for the amount of bud as well as higher levels of THC."

His parents still do, though. Live in Arkansas, that is — Conway. 

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Arkansas employers are running out of prep time before medical marijuana becomes available, so it’s crucial to begin now defining internal policies and procedures, said Little Rock attorney J. Bruce Cross of Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus.

More Arkansans disapprove of the state’s effort to implement medical marijuana than approve of the effort to launch the industry in the Natural State. The question is: are these voters opponents who voted against the measure or supporters who want a faster pace?

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Potential operators of medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries came together at a half-day symposium in Little Rock Wednesday to discuss their expectations of what the new industry will be like.

Among the attendees was TV host Montel Williams, who gave the keynote address at the event organized by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association. Williams has multiple sclerosis, and has long advocated for medicinal cannabis use. His visit had added significance, since he recently accepted a position on the association’s board.

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Would-be growers and distributors of Arkansas' initial medical marijuana crop have flooded a state office building waiting for their turn to submit applications.

Ahead of Monday afternoon's deadline, there was about a three-hour wait for applicants at the Department of Finance and Administration Building. Agency spokesman Scott Hardin said that before noon, the office had distributed paperwork to more than 100 groups or individuals. Fewer than half the applicants had been called in for clerks to review paperwork to ensure it was in order.

With one week before a deadline for entities to apply for licenses to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana, officials still haven't received as many applications as expected.

As of midday Monday, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said 27 applications for dispensaries had been received. That’s five fewer than the 32 officials expected to be approved, though more applications are expected in the coming days.

11 applications for cultivation facilities have been received, with five to be approved.

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