Waiting game: 5 years later, 2 groups still waiting for licenses

Waiting game: 5 years later, 2 groups still waiting for licenses

If good things truly come to those who wait, a pair of Arkansas business partnerships are in store for something nice. Or, rather, something green.

Five years after submitting their applications for dispensary ownership, two ownership groups are on the cusp of receiving licenses but remain on the outside looking in as legal issues stand in the way.

A temporary restraining order, spurred by a lawsuit over the application process, has prevented the state Medical Marijuana Commission from issuing licenses to the two ownership groups. 

T&C Management of Texarkana and Green Remedies Group of Garland County are next in line to be awarded licenses according to the rules set forth by the commission. 

The commission, which has issued 38 of the maximum 40 dispensary licenses allowed by state law, faced a dilemma last year as to how to award the final two licenses. The commission received applications in 2017 but the life of those applications had been extended as much as possible. Once the applications expired, the commission chose not to initiate a new, and likely lengthy, application process to seek new applicants for the two open licenses. Instead, the commission decided to embark on a path to change its rules and consider the remaining applications as active

The rule change would have allowed the commission to award an additional license in Zones 6 and 8, the only zones that did not already have the maximum five dispensaries. 

Based on the scores of the applications, Green Remedies had the next highest score in Zone 6, while T&C Management was next in line in Zone 8. 

Rule change and restraining order 

The rule change that would have allowed these companies to receive licenses involved several steps, including commission approval, a public notice, a public comment period and approval from the Arkansas Legislative Council. The change cleared nearly all of the hurdles, needing only the blessing of the Arkansas Legislative Council. With that approval, the commission could have awarded the final two dispensary licenses this year. 

Before the legislators could approve the change, however, a lawsuit was filed challenging the initial application process. The lawsuit, filed by Absolute Essence LLC, states the commission’s handling of Absolute Essence’s application was “discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious.” The civil complaint also states that Absolute Essence is a 100% black-owned business and a “highly qualified applicant” but did not receive a license while “demonstrably less-qualified non-black-owned businesses” did. 

Absolute Essence had proposed opening a dispensary at 9416 Highway 5 North in Bryant, which is in Zone 6. Absolute Essence finished 20th of 29 applications in Zone 6, according to commission spokesman Scott Hardin. 

T&C Management and Green Remedies were dropped from the suit without prejudice, meaning they could be added to the suit again. The remaining defendants are the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. 

Circuit Judge Alice Gray in Pulaski County issued a temporary restraining order in February to “preserve the status quo” and prevent the issuance of any more licenses until a hearing could be held. 

A trial date has not been set, but Gray has announced she is retiring at the end of the year. Former deputy prosecutor Cara Connors won an election in May to take over Gray’s role. Connors will take over Gray’s cases. 

Gray denied the state’s motion to dismiss the suit based on sovereign immunity. The state is appealing that ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court. 

So, who are the two companies that have waited five years for licenses and continue to sit in a holding pattern? 

T&C Management

The folks who built a Texarkana restaurant into a culinary institution are getting into the marijuana business. Well, they’re trying to anyway. 

Cattleman’s Steakhouse, a Texarkana foodie destination until it closed earlier this year, was inducted into the state Food Hall of Fame in 2020. Roy Oliver started the restaurant in 1964 and his son, Joe, took it over a few years later. Joe’s son, Cash, took over the restaurant a few years ago. When the hot spot closed for good in March, it was Texarkana’s oldest restaurant, according to a story and video posted in February by Jeff Easterling of Texarkana FYI. 

Five years ago, the Olivers submitted an application for a dispensary license but that process has stalled with them next in line to receive a license. 

Attempts to reach the Olivers and their lawyer were unsuccessful. 

Cash and his mother, Susan, are part-owners of T&C Management with Susan owning 60% of the business and Cash owning 20%. Texarkana bail bondsman Terry Larey owns the other 20%. 

If approved, T&C Management would be Texarkana’s third dispensary, making it the fourth Arkansas city with three dispensaries after Little Rock, Fayetteville and West Memphis. The dispensary would be located at 2425 East Street, which is about six miles from the city’s other two marijuana outlets. Good Day Farm Texarkana is located at 4423 E. Broad St. and SuperFarm (formerly Bloom Medicinals) is located at 410 Realtor Ave. 

Green Remedies Group

The other group trying to get into retail marijuana sales is already in the cannabis industry. 

Green Remedies Group is owned by 33 individuals but is headed by Brad Fausett and Don Brewington, who together own Hawgs Hemp Farm in Conway County. The pair also own a seed company and a hemp processing company as well as a dispensary and cannabis farm in Oklahoma. 

Fausett, Brewington, Steve Johnson and Dugan King each own 13.98% of Green Remedies, according to their application with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. 

The proposed dispensary would be located on Highway 70 in Garland County. Garland County is already home to Green Springs Medical Center and Suite 443 in Hot Springs.