Analysis: Few ways out of Arkansas' medical pot stalemate

Weeks after he effectively halted the launch of Arkansas’ medical marijuana program, a judge is urging officials to find a way to resume evaluating applications. That’s going to be easier said than done.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen last week encouraged the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission to fix the problems he raised last month when he said the state’s process for licensing cultivation facilities violated the voter-approved 2016 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Griffen also indicated he didn’t view his ruling against the process as appealable to the state Supreme Court yet.

“The court hopes that the present ruling will clear the way for the Medical Marijuana Commission and its co-defendants to proceed with the work required to properly screen, evaluate, and select medical marijuana cultivation facility licensees,” Griffen wrote in an ruling last week denying requests to lift his preliminary injunction against the licensing process.

Griffen’s ruling came the same day the state announced it was putting on hold the review of hundreds of applications from businesses that want to sell medical marijuana, citing Griffen’s earlier preliminary injunction preventing the state from issuing cultivation licenses.

Griffen last month sided with an unsuccessful applicant who claimed the state’s scoring of the 95 applicants for cultivation licenses was flawed and cited potential conflicts of interest by two of the Medical Marijuana Commission’s five members. Griffen also said the state didn’t properly verify whether the cultivation facilities were at least 3,000 feet away from daycares, schools and churches, as required by the medical marijuana amendment.

The state’s decision to stop reviewing dispensary applications for now has disheartened medical marijuana supporters. David Couch, the attorney who wrote the medical marijuana amendment voters approved two years ago, said the pause would harm patients since the dispensaries are allowed under the amendment to grow

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