Natural State Wellness, one of five companies winning a permit from the state to operate a medical cannabis cultivation facility, has chosen to locate in Jefferson County, giving that county two cultivation centers. The company had submitted identical applications, one for Jefferson and one for Jackson County.
“It was not an accident” that Jefferson County landed both Natural State Wellness and Natural State Medicinals, Caleb McMahon, economic development director for the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, said today. “It was a lot of hard work.”
Natural State Medicinals will locate at Interstate 530 at Gravel Pit Road, about halfway between Redfield and White Hall. Natural State Wellness will locate in Pine Bluff.
“To tell you the truth, in November 2016, I went to my board and to my mayor and I asked them if we could aggressively go after this,” McMahon said. “Pine Bluff gets a black eye in the media. [Officials have] been very progressive toward this. …. They were really forward thinking.”
McMahon said he did not know NSM’s “internal numbers,” but that Natural State Wellness says it will invest $8 million in its plant and expects to hire 42 or 43 people.
Water and electricity “will be a big issue” for NSM since it’s in the county, McMahon said, but it will be handled. He said he could not yet make public incentives offered the companies, but said they did not include tax breaks. He said he would be able to talk about them in the future after commitments are finalized.
Natural State Wellness is owned by 27 people, including Hank Wilkins V, the son of Jefferson County Judge Hank Wilkins IV; former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and his wife, Bobbi*; and McDaniel’s father, Bobby McDaniel
; and lawyer Donald L. Parker. Natural State Medicinals is owned by a consortium including pharmacist Joseph Courtwright, the former CEO and president of USA Drug (now owned by Walgreens); Susan and Dr. Alonzo Williams; USA founder Stephen LaFrance, Drs. Kelli and Scott Schlesinger; Arkansas Cannabis Association board member Robert DeBin; Kathryne and Dr. Clifton Bolen Peck IV; and Fox 16 News anchor Donna Terrell.
*A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to Kristi McDaniel as Dustin McDaniel’s wife.