Arkansas suit accuses medical marijuana regulators of racist licensing practices

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A Black-owned company in Arkansas filed suit against state medical marijuana regulators and other officials, alleging that it was discriminated against during the dispensary licensing process because of its owner’s race.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, dispensary applicant Absolute Essence – which competed for a license in Zone 6 of the state’s geographic sectors – sued the state Medical Marijuana Commission, the Department of Finance and Administration, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and license winners Green Remedies Group and T&C Management.

The suit seeks to halt the licensing process until flaws in the system can be rectified and requests a court order to force the commission to rescore its applications and others.

“Demonstrably less qualified non-black owned businesses – including many that were patently unqualified to even apply for licenses and who should have been disqualified at the outset – have been awarded licenses,” the suit claims.

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The suit over Absolute Essence being denied a license further accuses the MMJ commission of applying its own rules differently to Black-owned companies compared with other license applicants, thus tainting the entire licensing process.

A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration – which houses the other state agencies listed as defendants – declined to comment on the suit.

However, the spokesperson noted that the commission has faced many other lawsuits so far without the licensing process being stalled.