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story.lead_photo.caption In this Thursday, April 20, 2017 photo caretakers oversee a grow room for medical marijuana at ShowGrow, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

BENTONVILLE -- Saying they have unanswered questions, Benton County planners on Wednesday tabled action on a proposed medical marijuana cultivation facility until Sept. 20.

The Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of tabling action on the plan. Bob Bracy, board chairman, said the proposal has raised new questions for the county.

Medical marijuana

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 amended the state Constitution making the use of medical marijuana legal and established a system for cultivation, acquisition and distribution of medical marijuana.

Source: Staff report

"This is a new area for Benton County," Bracy said. "There is not enough evidence presented. There needs to be more evidence presented in two or three areas."

Bracy cited questions about security and plans for cooperation with law enforcement as one area he wants to hear more information. Marvin Park, representing Therapeutic Health Corporation, told the board the company worked with the Arkansas State Police on security but received no response from the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

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Another area of concern is the operation of a nonprofit organization described as a "youth ranch" on property immediately south of the planned facility. County planners said the state restricts medical marijuana facilities, barring them from operating within 3,000 feet of churches, schools and day-care facilities. It was unclear if a youth ranch would be included in any of those classifications.

I think it's a question worth answering," Ashley Tucker, board member, said during the discussion.

The Planning Board was considering plans for about 20 acres at 10004 and 10012 Bloomfield North Road, northwest of Gentry. The plans call for renovating a poultry house on the site for the cultivation facility and a house on the property would be used as an office. The plans show security fencing, lighting and other screening and buffering required by the county to separate the business from adjacent properties.

Possible waste-water problems from the facility was another issue. Marvin Park, representing the business, said the growing facility would use an "aeroponic" system, which he described as a "self-contained system" recirculating the water used.

More than a dozen area residents spoke against the facility, citing concerns about crime, traffic, flooding or other water quality problems, decreasing property value and what they said will be an intrusion of an industrial operation into a rural area.

"I realize the people of Arkansas voted to make medical marijuana legal," Teresa Sturgeon told the board. "I don't think they thought about what would happen if they did that. This really needs to be in an industrial area."

Park said the proposed facility is more of an agricultural operation than what he sees as a "heavy commercial" operation that would fit the designation the county planning staff is using for the facility.

"This is not a power plant," Park said. "It's not a Tyson chicken plant. In my mind, that's heavy industry."

NW News on 09/07/2017

Print Headline: County planners table marijuana facility

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