In an unforeseen twist, an Arkansas judge stalls permit process for growing medical marijuana in that state, pending a lawsuit by unsuccessful applicants. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen directed state officials not to issue licenses to the applicants they have already selected. Regulators with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission had planned to issue those licenses today.
Was The Process Unfair?
The commission announced which applications to cultivate medical marijuana in the state they approved late last month. At least two companies with unsuccessful bids subsequently filed lawsuits on Tuesday alleging the selection process was unfair.
Naturalis Health LLC Health LLC and Delta Cannabinoid Corp. are the plaintiffs in the cases. They included in the suits a request that the judge issue a temporary restraining order to stop the commission from granting the licenses.
The judge sees merit in the plaintiff’s arguments, according to reports in local media.
While announcing his order today, he said that Naturalis Health “asserts facts showing a substantial likelihood of success on the merits regarding violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, due process, and equal protection.”
Plaintiffs Don’t Trust The System
The lawsuit from Naturalis Health is 19 pages long, Arkansas Online reports. In the suit, the company states that they have no faith in the permitting process.
“Defendants have caused a complete distrust in the newly implemented medical marijuana industry, approved by Arkansas voters, to serve the medicinal needs of qualifying Arkansans.”
The lawsuit also called on Judge Griffin to act quickly.
“Arkansas is the first state in the south to legalize medicinal marijuana. The State has an obligation not only to plaintiff but to its citizens, to get this right. The State has a limited window of time to correct the problems outlined in this Complaint. This Court must act now.”
The legal filing also notes that one of the commission’s members has an “extremely close personal and professional relationship” with Dr. Scot Michael Schlesinger. Dr. Shchlesinger is a partner in Natural State Medicinals. The commission selected that company to receive one of the permits.
Will A Lawsuit Prevail?
Alex Gray is a lawyer with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association. He does not believe a lawsuit against the state can succeed.
He noted that the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled this year that the state can’t be sued in its own courts. Gray has filed lawsuits for growers in the past that were then dismissed by the courts.
“Any challenge naming the state as a defendant is going to have issues prevailing based on the state’s sovereign immunity,” Gray said.
Final Hit: Arkansas Judge Stalls Permit Process For Growing Medical Marijuana
Regulators are now unsure if the commission’s meeting scheduled for this afternoon will still be held. Scott Hardin is a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). He issued a statement via email to the press today.
“The DFA’s legal team and [Arkansas Beverage Control Division] leadership are currently reviewing the situation to determine whether or not a meeting will take place today,” Hardin wrote.
Judge Griffin scheduled a hearing on the matter for Friday morning.