Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration revokes license of Fort Smith medical marijuana cultivator

This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.
This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.

The director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration issued an order Monday revoking the license for medical marijuana cultivator River Valley Relief LLC.

Doralee Chandler's decision comes after a ruling earlier this month from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright ordered that River Valley Relief's license be revoked, saying state regulators should have never issued a license to the Fort Smith cultivator. In his order, Wright said state regulators should reissue the license to a qualified applicant.

Bennett "Storm" Nolan, one of the businessmen behind River Valley Relief, filed a notice to appeal the decision Monday. Nolan will have a chance to argue his case in front of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board when it meets Dec. 21.

The issue is over River Valley's application for one of the coveted eight licenses to cultivate medical marijuana. The dispute over River Valley Relief's cultivation license began with a January 2021 lawsuit filed by 2600 Holdings LLC that claimed it had been wrongly passed over for a cultivation license in favor of River Valley Relief. The lawsuit targeted the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, which regulates medical marijuana under the Department of Finance and Administration.

In an order Nov. 3, Wright said regulators should not have awarded the license to River Valley given it was too close to a juvenile detention center in Sebastian County, which is legally considered a school under state law and therefore cannot be within 3,000 feet of a medical marijuana cultivation facility.

River Valley was awarded the eighth and final license to cultivate medical marijuana after missing the state's first round of licensing. In 2017, Arkansas marijuana regulators originally issued five cultivation licenses in its first round of licensing after voters approved the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. In the second round of licensing, River Valley had its application approved.

In his ruling, Wright found that Nolan dissolved his company and sold the location he intended to use for his cultivation facility after not originally being awarded a license.

Arguing in front of Chandler, lawyers representing River Valley argued that their client's license should not be revoked, saying the juvenile detention center that was within 3,000 feet of the proposed cultivation facility was not a school and submitted evidence saying a local official and a state Department of Education official told Nolan the nearby juvenile detention center wasn't considered a school.

When asked by his lawyers, Nolan said he dissolved his business after reading literature from Secretary of State John Thurston that advised him to do so.

Lawyers for River Valley also appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court in hopes to get a new trial.

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