An attorney for a company that unsuccessfully applied for a license to grow medical marijuana in Arkansas called the process for permitting such businesses "flawed and corrupt" on Thursday as state Supreme Court justices questioned whether a judge had the power to prevent those licenses from being issued.
The state attorney general's office, meanwhile, said in a previously sealed court document that a member of the commission accused another unsuccessful applicant of trying to bribe him.
Justices heard arguments in the state's appeal of a decision that prevents the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission from awarding its first cultivation licenses. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in March ruled that the licensing process violated a state constitutional amendment voters approved in 2016 legalizing marijuana for patients with certain conditions.
Griffen ruled in favor of an unsuccessful applicant who had challenged the commission's decision to issue permits to five businesses. The company, Naturalis Health, cited two potential conflicts of interest by members of the commission. It also claimed officials did not verify applicants' assertions that their facilities would be the required distance from churches, schools and day cares. Naturalis ranked 38th out of the 95 applications submitted, officials have said.
"(The company's) investigation revealed substantial evidence of arbitrary, capricious actions by the commission, evidence that established that the decision was characterized by an abuse of discretion and, in sum, a process that was conducted by the Medical Marijuana Commission that was fundamentally flawed and corrupt," Jay Bequette, an attorney for Naturalis, told justices.
Attorneys for the state and the companies that were set to receive the licenses, however, argued that Griffen's court didn't have jurisdiction to hear Naturalis' complaint.
"Agencies make administrative decisions, not adjudications, every day throughout this state and those are not subject to judicial review, and we would submit to you that that area of the law need not be disturbed in this case," said Casey Castleberry, an attorney for Bold Team LLC, one of the five cultivation facilities....