The Arkansas Supreme Court today released a letter submitted under seal by the attorney general this week in the medical marijuana case: It says an investigation is underway of a reported effort by one applicant for a marijuana cultivation permit to bribe a member of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.
Here’s the letter: An excerpt:
The state, of course, in argued in favor of preserving the commission’s choice of five winning applicants that the process had been fair.
The Supreme Court had allowed counsel for parties in the case to see the letter and asked whether they thought it should be sealed. Attorneys for three winning applicants said the letter shouldn’t be admitted into the record because it was too late. One unsuccessful applicant asked that the letter
The undersigned counsel has no knowledge of these assertions. The following is true, however, and are reasons this Court should strike the motion and tendered exhibit.
It is improper to make this motion and letter a part of this record because the record in this case is complete and the appellate court may not consider matters outside the record.
A party is innocent until proven guilty, and if or when that occurs, the State may file any available action in the law, but to bring allegations before this Court at this time is improper, unfairly prejudicial, and outside the rule of law.
The Supreme Court this afternoon denied the motion to seal the letter and granted Natural State Agronomic’s motion that it be stricken from the record of this case. When Natural State announced it would attempt to win a cultivation permit it said it hoped to be the largest medical marijuana company in the Southern United States. it finished in the middle of a pack of almost 100 applicants.
Well. This development doesn’t deal with the jurisdictional question that seems likely to control the Supreme Court ruling on Griffen. But it certainly adds to an accumulating pile of reasons to lose faith in the Commission’s choices in the case and to reboot the process, preferably by an independent outside reviewer. The commission has the power to do that. More information on the alleged bribe also is necessary.
UPDATE: The State Police has no open investigation related to this case. That makes it likely this could be a white-collar investigation by the FBI. There’s been a lot of that in Arkansas in recent years.
I’ve been unable to get comments from lawyers for Natural State Agronomics and I’ve left a message for Ken Shollmier, the businessman who led the effort. He’s a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and a frequent contributor to Republican political causes. Worth noting that the tie didn’t prevent reporting on this matter from a state executive agency to the Republican attorney general. Understand no allegation has been made specifically about who made the overture.
You can review the scoring of all the applications here. Dr. Carlos Roman, the commissioner who’s come under scrutiny for an outlier of a score for the top finisher Natural State Medicinals, with a 98, gave only one other applicant a score in the 90s. He gave Natural State Agronomics a 90. Roman has said “false narratives” have been told about commission scoring and has defended the honesty of the process.
UPDATE II: I reached Ken Shollmier, who’s been a spokesman for Natural State. He said his attorney had instructed him not to
“They can talk to me anytime. I haven’t done anything.”
Reports from various sources continue to circulate that some evidence exists that might contradict the account of the anonymous commissioner quoted by the attorney general.