Restraining order continues to prevent commission from issuing final two dispensary licenses November 15, 2022 By Griffin Coop A temporary restraining order issued by a judge in February continues to prevent the state Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing the final two dispensary licenses as a ruling in the court case related to the order is on appeal to the state Supreme Court. The plaintiff in the suit, Absolute Essence LLC, filed a lawsuit in January, alleging that the process for selecting applicants and awarding licenses was arbitrary and included racial discrimination and ethical problems. Arkansas Cannabiz profiled in June the two dispensaries that are next in line to receive licenses should the commission ever be allowed to issue them. Green Remedies Group of Garland County (Zone 6) and T&C Management of Texarkana (Zone 8) are next in line to receive licenses in their zones. The commission has divided the state’s counties into eight zones and allows up to five dispensaries in each zone. Green Remedies Group is headed by Brad Fausett and Don Brewington, who already grow hemp in Arkansas and who have hemp and cannabis operations in Oklahoma. T&C Management is owned by the Oliver family that owned Texarkana’s Cattleman’s Steakhouse, which was inducted into the state Food Hall of Fame and closed earlier this year. Absolute Essence’s lawsuit also contends that the application for Green Remedies Group was flawed because it did not identify a valid location for its dispensary. The plaintiffs also allege the system for scoring applications, carried out by contractor Public Consulting Group, was flawed and that at least one member of the scoring team had a conflict of interest and did not sign a “no conflicts” attestation. Circuit Judge Alice Gray issued a temporary restraining order in the case on Feb. 1 to “preserve the status quo” because she found Absolute Essence had “established a likelihood of success” would face “irreparable injury” if the status quo was not maintained. Gray also denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case on sovereign immunity grounds on April 14. The state had argued in a February filing that the case should be dismissed for several reasons, including its belief that the “claims asserted in the complaint are barred by sovereign immunity because Plaintiff seeks to control the lawful operations and administrative decisions of state agencies in the medical marijuana dispensary licensing process. In June, the state filed an interlocutory appeal with the state Supreme Court. An interlocutory appeal is an appeal of a ruling during a case before the case is ultimately adjudicated. The state made its first filing in the Supreme Court case in June and filed its first brief in August. The most recent briefing in the case was filed yesterday when the state argued against Absolute Essence’s argument that the Supreme Court appeal should be dismissed. In April, Gray extended the temporary restraining order until either 1) the Supreme Court rules that the case should be dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds or 2) until the court can hold a full hearing to adjudicate the case or enters further orders modifying or dissolving the order. Gray announced she would retire at the end of the year. In May, Cara Connors was elected to fill Gray’s seat.