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Arkansas Medical Marijuana Dispensary Won’t Get Back Its Revoked License, Judge Orders



“The evidence provided to the court is that the appellant has willfully committed violations and has continued to do so despite sanctions.”

By Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

A Hot Springs medical marijuana dispensary must sell or dispose of its products by July 11 after a judge denied the owner’s request to block the revocation of his license Thursday.

The board of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division voted June 12 to uphold Director Christy Bjornson’s May 2 decision to revoke Green Springs Medical Marijuana Dispensary’s license in light of several violations of the rules for medical marijuana handling and sales.

Green Springs is the first and only dispensary to have its license revoked since the state’s medical marijuana industry launched in 2019.

Owner Dragan Vicentic appealed the board’s decision, and Circuit Court Judge Kara Petro on Thursday denied his request for a stay on the decision.

Between May 2 and the June 12 ABC board hearing, Green Springs sold 203.28 grams of medical marijuana products that had expired a year after their quality assurance testing dates, according to Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration documents presented at Wednesday’s hearing. Medical marijuana products lose potency after their expiration date, and the ongoing sale of expired products was among the violations that led to the license revocation.

Vicentic and his attorneys “provided no evidence to rebut that the products had expired QA tests and were sold anyway,” Petro wrote in her decision.

Additionally, the dispensary’s processing area was “unsanitary,” a required “comprehensive inventory” had not been completed, some products were unlabeled and some of the marijuana in the inventory system was unaccounted for in the store, according to finance department documents detailing the violations.

Bjornson argued to the ABC board last week that the violations risked clients’ health. Josh Hurst, one of the attorneys representing Vicentic, asked ABC’s two witnesses Wednesday if they were aware of any patients that had been harmed by Green Springs’s products.

Glen Perciful and Jonathan Vince, both ABC employees, replied that they could not verify any harm to patients through the scope of their jobs.

Dr. Jonathan Wolfe, Green Springs’s consultant pharmacist, said he was not concerned about any risks to patients’ safety regarding the dispensary’s products.

Patient safety was not the issue at hand in the hearing, ABC senior staff attorney Chip Liebovich argued. The issue at hand was whether the dispensary broke the state’s rules for the medical marijuana industry and whether the ABC board’s decision should stand, he said.

ABC ordered Vicentic in August not to continue selling a list of expired products that enforcement agents found at the dispensary, but he admitted at another inspection in January that he was still selling expired products, according to ABC board documents.

“The evidence provided to the court is that the appellant has willfully committed violations and has continued to do so despite sanctions,” Petro wrote. “There was substantial evidence of failure to comply with a valid directive of the ABC Commission and noncompliance with ABC agents and this noncompliance has continued to this day.”

She argued that “the public has an interest in quality assurance” that merited a denial of Vicentic’s request to keep the dispensary open.

The ABC board’s decision started a 30-day clock for Vicentic to sell or dispose of the cannabis at the dispensary, and ABC agents will be able to seize any remaining products after the deadline.

Before last week’s ABC hearing, Vicentic had informed the state Medical Marijuana Commission that he plans to sell the license and dispensary. He said Wednesday that he planned to leave the medical marijuana industry entirely if he completed the $3 million sale, he said in response to questions from Liebovich.

The Medical Marijuana Commission will meet Tuesday to discuss its next steps in light of Green Springs’s license revocation and Vicentic’s appeal.

Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana by approving Amendment 98 to the state Constitution in 2016. Green Springs was the second dispensary to open in 2019 upon being licensed; Suite 443, also in Hot Springs, was the first.

Amendment 98 allows the commission to issue 40 dispensary licenses, but only 37 are active since one has been revoked and the remaining two have been delayed by a lawsuit.

Absolute Essence, a Black-owned Little Rock company that applied for a license, sued the commission, the finance department and ABC in January 2022, alleging racial discrimination in the license application process. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray issued an injunction the following month, blocking the commission from issuing new licenses until the case is resolved.

This story was originally published by Arkansas Advocate.

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Photo elements courtesy of rawpixel and Philip Steffan.

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