When the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration announces its five highest scoring applicants to own and operate a marijuana cultivation facility for the state's germinating medical marijuana industry, it will be a surprise to the Medical Marijuana Commission who scored the 95 applicants.
"These 95 applications were scored individually by each commissioner. They were then brought back to the Alcoholic Beverage Control office [and] turned in individually; so at this point the commissioners are also going to learn along with everyone else those top five scores," Scott Hardin, spokesman for the department, said Monday.
The announcement will be made at the commission's regular meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The division is overseeing administration of the drug rollout much as it does alcohol sales licensing; the Arkansas Department of Health is overseeing patient registration and, ultimately, some drug quality aspects.
The state has has the 95 applications, some totaling over a thousand pages after appendices, since a September deadline. Each commissioner took all 95 applications and scored them according to a rubric they voted on over many meetings.
Hardin said the state is already the subject of a couple of lawsuits over the selection process, and he "absolutely" predicts more after Tuesday's announcement.
Regardless, beginning tomorrow the division and the commission will turn its attention to the 227 who applied to retail medical marijuana (some of which also applied to grow it).
"I think you’re probably looking at, just from the sheer amount of applications, 200-plus that are obviously large applications — it’s going to take a couple months. This is just speculating, but I think you’ll probably see the commission discussing probably a late-April/May announcement of dispensary licenses. Somewhere in that timeframe, and barring anything slowing us down legally or otherwise, we’re on track to have hopefully everything up and running by summer 2018," Hardin said.
Each application to grow was accompanied by a check for $15,000. Those that don’t get picked get half of that back, but those that do have to subsequently submit another $100,000 to cover the licensing fee, and post a $500,000 performance bond, within seven days of official notification.
To date, the state has approved over 4,000 medical marijuana identification cards for patients. Hardin says the state anticipates a total ten-times greater — 40,000 registered patients — when the program’s fully up and running.
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