Arkansas to outsource evaluation of medical marijuana applications

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The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission voted to give a consulting group the power to evaluate applications and award 32 dispensary licenses for MMJ.

The commission decided by a 3-2 vote Wednesday that a consulting group – comprising a five-member panel – could review and score hundreds of dispensary applications.

Commissioner Travis Story strongly opposed the motion, arguing the agency had a constitutionally granted responsibility to review and score the applications.

But last week, Arkansas lawmakers passed an amendment granting the commission the authority to hire a consultant. The commission ultimately voted in favor of hiring an outside party, largely citing the speed with which dedicated consultants could review the volume of the applications.

The composition of the consulting panel will mirror that of the commission to include a representative from medical, pharmaceutical, government relations, legal and either agriculture or cannabis fields, according to Alcohol Beverage Control attorney Danielle Hoefer.

Office of State Procurement lawyer David Withrow said the consultant will be selected in about a month.

In the adopted selection process, the lowest bidder will automatically be hired. The consulting panel will then have 30 days to review and score the applications or there will be a financial penalty.

The commission will award the licenses under a 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana.

– Associated Press