Medical marijuana: Eureka Green could receive dispensary license
By Kelby Newcomb
Carroll County could have both a medical marijuana cultivation facility and a dispensary by the end of 2019.
Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County was awarded a cultivation license in July, and Eureka Green in Eureka Springs is in the running to receive a dispensary license in January.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission (AMMC) announced in a press release Wednesday, Dec. 19, that the meeting to announce dispensary scores had been rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 9, to provide newly appointed commissioners adequate time to receive briefings on all matters related to the AMMC. Additionally, the release says, Public Consulting Group’s medical director was unable to attend on the original date but confirmed his attendance on Jan. 9.
The state released Thursday, Dec. 21, the names of the 32 top-scoring companies that applied for the first medical marijuana dispensary permits after the commission received numerous Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
The 32 dispensaries will be set up across eight zones throughout the state. Four dispensaries will be allowed per region. Once the commission selects the top 32 applications, the companies must pay a $15,000 licensing fee and post a $100,000 performance bond before receiving their licenses.
For Zone One, which includes Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties, the top four scores include the Acanza Health Group, Valentine Holdings, Arkansas Medical Source Patient Center and the Releaf Center.
Dr. Dan Bell, one of the investors in Eureka Green, said the company scored fifth for Zone One with a total score of 66.58. The Releaf Center had a total score of 66.71.
“We barely missed that,” he said. “We were within a fraction of a point. There were five different examiners scoring on eight different categories. If one point had been moved either way, we would have been fourth. It was that close.”
There is still hope, however.
Bell said Valentine Holdings and Acanza Health Group have multiple options across the state, so the companies will have to pick one location before receiving a license.
“They’ll have to decide what they think is best for them,” he said. “There’s a fair chance that one of them will pick one of those alternatives. If they do, that would move us up to fourth place, and we would have one of the licenses for Zone One.”
Bell continued, “They may look at Fayetteville as the honey hole and decide they don’t want to leave it. Then we’d be out in the cold.”
These were preliminary scores, he said, and the AMMC will finalize them on Jan. 9.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to play out,” he said. “These are preliminary scores that don’t have the bonus points figured in. They will finalize them and say ‘Here are the top four.’ I’m not sure that at that moment that they will ask those companies with multiple options to choose where to extradite their license.”
Bell said he expects the companies will have a little time to think through that decision.
“With the way this has gone, everything is very slow and drawn out,” he said. “They’ll probably give them a week or so to figure it out, and we won’t know until a week afterwards.”
The state may also decide to award additional licenses, he said.
“The law authorized 40 different dispensaries, and AMMC decided to go with just 32,” Bell said. “Part of me hopes they decide to award 40 instead of 32 because they got more good scores than bad. We never know until the last minute. They’ve been unpredictable.”
If Eureka Green is awarded a dispensary license in January, he said they will have a waiting period to see what happens in court.
“We will have a pause period to see if there’s going to be a flurry of lawsuits like the cultivators had,” Bell said. “Pretty quickly everybody was stepping forward and suing. My hunch is that there will be. There are so many people who were scored. Somebody is going to say ‘We weren’t scored fairly, and we’re objecting to this,’ or something.”
After legal issues are settled in court, he said Eureka Green would close on the real estate it has a contract on and begin retrofitting the property to serve as a dispensary.
“As fast as we can, we will retrofit that real estate to grow the 50 mature plants and 150 immature plants that we’re allowed,” Bell said. “We want to grow those as fast as we can and have those changes made so we can be one of the first dispensaries on the market.”
He said Eureka Green would be a unique dispensary because it would operate like a medical clinic.
“If you come in our doors, there will be a nurse there a lot of the time,” he said, “who will weigh you and check your vital signs and then go over your diagnosis.”
Bell said they will review what conditions patients are trying to treat with medical marijuana and make sure it doesn’t affect their other medications or conditions.
“If you’ve got bad lungs or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” he said, “we’re not going to let you do anything where you’re inhaling, vaping or smoking. We will do everything we can to have you use tinctures or edibles.”
Eureka Green will keep a chart on every patient, Bell said, and advise them on the best strains of medical marijuana for their particular problem.
“We already have protocols in place to treat certain conditions,” he said, “and we’ll of course be doing research to see what works best. We think if anybody comes in the door they’ll appreciate the care they got and realize we have a speciality line of products.”
Bell continued, “We hope we can win them as clients forever. That’s why we think it is important to be one of the first dispensaries on the market.”
He said he and his wife, Suzie Bell, have a lot of work and money invested into the proposed dispensary.
“A lot of effort and finances have been spent getting us to where we are,” he said. “We’d like to win the license. If we don’t, we’re OK with that, too, and just need to understand our path forward.”
Bell continued, “We’d like to get an idea of what’s coming for the future, such as if the commission will consider awarding a few more licenses down the road. It would be nice if they’d show their hand a little bit more so we’d know what to expect.”
He said the process he and his wife have gone through for the dispensary has been a great adventure.
“We’ve established some wonderful new relationships and learned a lot,” Bell said, “so, whether we do or do not land a license, it’s been an exciting and fun project so far. We’ll be good with it either way.”