Letter says Arkansas medical marijuana company tried to bribe commissioner

A medical marijuana company has been accused of trying to bribe a member of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission (Photo: MGN)

A letter to the Arkansas Supreme Court from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says a company that sought a license to cultivate medical marijuana tried to bribe a member of the state Medical Marijuana Commission.

The letter was submitted to the state's high court under seal. It was unsealed Thursday.

According to the letter, the commissioner claims he did not accept the bribe from the company, Natural State Agronomics, but he "gave that entity the second-highest score that he awarded to any entity" in the highly-competitive selection process for cultivation licenses. The letter says the commissioner, who was not named, did not report the bribe.

Natural State Agronomics was not among the five companies chosen as cultivators.

Authorities are investigating the bribery accusation, according to the letter.

After looking at the scoring sheet provided by the Department of Finance and Administration, it is apparent that the commissioner in question is Dr. Carlos Roman. Natural State Agronomics received a 90 from Roman, the second-highest score that he awarded any entity, while the rest of the commissioners scored the entity between 67 and 77.

Rutledge's office released a statement on the matter Thursday afternoon.

“The integrity of the law is paramount and the Attorney General takes her ethical responsibility to the people of Arkansas and the court system very seriously," the statement says. "Upon learning of the information contained in the letter, the Attorney General personally and promptly informed the proper law enforcement authorities. Because some of that information is the subject of an ongoing law enforcement investigation and may be considered attorney-client privileged, the Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to seal the letter.”

On Thursday Governor Hutchinson held a press conference on a variety of topics, but was also asked about the letter and bribery offer. "In terms of the letter, that is simply something that was under seal, the court made it public and as you read the letter it's obvious that it's just a matter of straight forward disclosure to the court on this allegation and that there is an on-going investigation about those allegations. I don't see that as impacting the supreme court's decision, which is largely on the procedural area," said Hutchinson.

The letter was unsealed Thursday as the Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that has delayed the start of the state's medical marijuana program. A county judge ruled in March that the process for licensing growers violated a voter-approved amendment that legalized medical marijuana. The suit says the process was "plagued by unlawful and inconsistent procedures."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off