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Arkansas court clears way for medical pot program's launch

Justices on Thursday reversed and dismissed a judge's ruling that prevented officials from issuing the first licenses for businesses to grow the drug. (MGN Photo)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KATV) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court has cleared the way for the state to launch its medical marijuana program.

Justices on Thursday reversed and dismissed a judge's ruling that prevented officials from issuing the first licenses for businesses to grow the drug.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the state's process for awarding medical marijuana cultivation licenses was unconstitutional.

He said the process violated constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016 that legalized marijuana for patients with certain conditions.

Griffen's order prevented the state's Medical Marijuana Commission from awarding the cultivation licenses to five businesses.

An unsuccessful applicant had sued the state over claims the process for awarding the licenses was flawed.

The Supreme Court ruled that Griffen did not have jurisdiction to halt the licenses.

"We appreciate the court’s decision," a spokesperson with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration told KATV News. "We’re in the process of reviewing it and we will be sharing an additional statement later today regarding the next steps."

According to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission's rules, unsuccessful applicants have 30 days after receiving a denial letter to appeal the commission's decision to the Pulaski County circuit court or the circuit court in which the cultivation facility would be located.

An attorney with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association, Alex Gray, tells KATV similar challenges to what the state has already seen could end up being filed.

The Department of Finance and Administration says the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling is not considered final for two weeks and the commission cannot take action until after that. DF&A says holding meetings could be part of that action in the coming weeks.

"We appreciate the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the injunction from the Circuit Court that blocked the implementation Arkansas’ medical marijuana program," said Scott Hardin, a DF&A spokesperson. "Today’s Supreme Court ruling will be declared final in just over two weeks. At that point, the Medical Marijuana Commission, with the ability to continue any action that was underway or scheduled prior to the injunction, will announce the next steps in this process."


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