There is a temporary freeze on new cannabis dispensary licenses in Arkansas after a judge there barred the state’s medical marijuana commission from issuing any more.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen issued the ruling Tuesday, granting a temporary restraining order over a dispensary operator’s lawsuit against the commission. Medicanna, a company based in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, sued the medical marijuana commission, saying it was passed over for a dispensary license that was instead issued to a different company in Pine Bluff that actually received a lower application score. 

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the decision was made “because Medicanna had received a partial refund of its application fee, which the commission determined meant that its application was withdrawn from license consideration.” According to the newspaper, Griffen said the company had shown a “substantial likelihood” that the decision came in violation of the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act. The two sides will reconvene on March 3 for a hearing.

Delays Put Crimp in Medical Cannabis

Arkansas voters approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, but the program’s rollout was beset by a number of delays. State officials announced last year that it had finally awarded 32 licenses for dispensaries. Those dispensaries were required to pay a $15,000 licensing fee, as well as a $100,000 performance bond.

Medical marijuana sales began last May, but according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “nearly half of Arkansas’ 32 dispensaries remain inoperable a year after the permits were issued.”

The medical marijuana program has faced resistance from lawmakers. Last year, a month before sales began, legislators passed a bill that barred medical cannabis companies from advertising to audiences made up of more than 30 percent children, and from placing ads within 1,000 feet of schools or daycares. The measure also prohibited ads from appearing on public transit, and imposed stiff restrictions on TV, radio, print media, and online advertising. 

Arkansas is one of more than 30 states to permit patients to treat qualifying medical conditions with medical marijuana.

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