In a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the state Medical Marijuana Commission accepted the dispensary application results and scores submitted to it by the Public Consulting Group. Leslie Peacock will have an update in a bit.

The board accepted its consultants scoring of 200 dispensary applications and will notify the top 32 scorers that they will receive dispensary licenses. Because some companies were scored into more than one zone, their decisions on where to operate will bring others up the ladder. The licenses for dispensaries and cultivators will not be issued immediately.  Notification letters will be sent out to selected dispensaries and cultivators no later than Monday the 14th, according to Brian Bowen, deputy attorney general of state agencies.

Then, the applicants who have been selected for licenses will have to pay their surety bonds of $100,000 before the license is issued. 

Selected dispensaries then must have their storefronts verified by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

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The Commission set its next meeting for 4:30 p.m. Feb. 13. At that meeting, it will begin the process of setting rules for independent transporters.

An update by Leslie Peacock will follow.

UPDATE: To several boos and a polite scatter of applause, the Medical Marijuana Commission emerged from a rabbit hole debate about pot strains and voted to accept the Public Consulting Group’s scoring on who will receive medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

Here’s a list of the 32 top scorers in the eight zones (see map below). When companies with multiple applications make their decisions on where they’ll operate, other companies will rise into the top four.

Zone 1: Acanza Health Group, Valentine Holdings LLC, Arkansas Medicinal Source Patient Center, the Releaf Center.

Zone 2: Fiddler’s Green, Big Fish of North Central Arkansas, Plant Family Therapeutics, Arkansas Natural Products.

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Zone 3: Valentine Holdings, Grassroots OPCO, THC Rx Inc., Delta Cannabis. If
Valentine Holdings choses Zone 1, Natural State Wellness Dispensary will move up. If Natural State Wellness Dispensary chooses to move up, it will have to forgo its position in Zone 4, and Comprehensive Care Group will move up.

Zone 4: Valentine Holdings, Natural State Wellness Dispensary, JPS Management LLC, River Valley Dispensary. If Valentine goes with either of its other two locations, Johnson County Dispensary will move up.

Zone 5: Harvest, Grassroots OPCO, Natural State Wellness Dispensary, Natural Relief Dispensary. If Grassroots and Natural State go elsewhere, the next two top scorers are Native Green Wellness Center and Green Thumb Industries of Arkansas.

Zone 6: Green Springs Medical, Native Green Wellness Center, Doctors Orders Rx, Natural State Medical Center.

Zone 7: Acanza Health Group, Natural State Wellness Dispensary, PainFree Rx, Delta Cultivators. If Acanza and Natural State Wellness go elsewhere, the next two top scorers are Pine Bluff Agriceuticals and Arkansas Patient Services Co.

Zone 8: Grassroots OPCO, Noah’s Ark LLC, Bloom Medicinals of AR LLC, RX MED. If Grassroots goes elsewhere, Arkadelphia Dispensary will move up.

After the Public Consulting Group made its presentation on how it “deployed” the team of five who scored the applications, several board members asked, in a variety of ways, if the scores took into account what strains the dispensaries would offer.

(More to come).

Commission Chair Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, member Dr. Stephen Carroll and member Travis Storey asked, in various permutations of the question, if the scoring took into account whether the pharmacies would offer all the strains of marijuana that people who qualify need. The answers from PCG evolved, from the consultants saying the scorers certainly read the strains to be grown (by the dispensaries that plan to grow, legal up to 50 mature plants) to yes, the scorers were trained in the medicine of marijuana, so surely they took that into account into the scoring. However, one dispensary winner said later, the question on the application was optional, given that some dispensaries applicants were not also cultivators, and in theory, the scoring should be neutral on applicants with or without plans to grow cannabis.

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The surpassingly strange debate over strains, and whether a pharmacy’s stock should have been taken into account in the scoring, took up much of the two and a half hour meeting. It was odd in that while very little research has been done on what marijuana strains are best for the 17 qualifying disorders, and two years ago, the commissioners might have said it’s all a mystery whether marijuana has any medical application at all, though there is evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) helps in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.

Brian Bowen, the lawyer for the commission, said before the presentation by PCG that an error in providing nine of the applications — some of the attachments didn’t get forwarded — had been corrected and the applications were scored. In addition, he said, one application that was initially disqualified was accepted.

That applicant was apparently Deep Roots LLC, according to a letter to the Times, and its application was denied because of a lack of tax information on one of the owners. According to the letter, the information was not provided because the owner is elderly and his income is such that he is not required to file a tax return.

(more to come)

When one person in the audience spoke out, asking the commission to review their protest over the scoring before acting, Henry-Tillman reminded him that the meeting was not a public hearing, so no comments from the floor could be taken.

The protest came from Baron Crane, a representative of New Leaf Cannabis Co. which came in 19th in Zone 1. The New Leaf group complained that one of the scorers gave 86 percent of the applicants the same score in security, and it provided a statement to the press saying “It is apparent that section was not given proper time or consideration … .”