Supreme Court denies state’s appeal, Absolute Essence case heads back to circuit court December 16, 2022 By Griffin Coop The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday against the state’s appeal in a case involving a plaintiff who alleges that the process for awarding medical marijuana dispensary licenses was arbitrary and included racial discrimination and ethical problems. The ruling sends the matter back to circuit court where Absolute Essence LLC originally filed the case, arguing that the scoring process for dispensary applications was flawed. In April, Pulaski County Judge Alice Gray ruled against the state’s motion to dismiss the case on sovereign immunity grounds and the state filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. The state had argued before Gray that Absolute Essence’s claims were barred by sovereign immunity, because it “seeks to control the lawful operations and administrative decisions of state agencies in the medical marijuana dispensary licensing process.” Gray denied that motion and, since the state had indicated it intended to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court, extended a temporary restraining order to “maintain the status quo.” Gray said in her ruling that Absolute Essence had “established a likelihood of success” and would face “irreparable injury” if the state quo was not maintained. The restraining order, originally issued in February, has prevented the state Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing the final two dispensary licenses. The commission has issued 38 of the maximum 40 dispensary licenses allowed by the state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2016. In April, Gray extended the restraining order until either the Supreme Court ruled in the state’s favor on the sovereign immunity matter or until the court is able to hold a full hearing on the case. Absolute Essence argued in circuit court that the state scoring process, carried out by contractor Public Consulting Group, was flawed and that at least one member of the scoring team had an undisclosed conflict of interest. Absolute Essence also argued that the dispensary application for Green Remedies Group of Garland County was flawed because it did not propose using a valid location. Green Remedies Group is next in line to receive a license in Zone 6 and T&C Management is next in line to receive a license in Zone 8. Gray is set to retire at the end of the year. In May, Cara Connors was elected to fill the seat. The defendants in the case are the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, the state Medical Marijuana Commission and Green Remedies Group. T&C Management was originally named as a defendant but was dismissed from the case in May.