A tour of Natural State Medicinals

A tour of Natural State Medicinals

On a rainy Thursday in May, Robert deBin toured me around Natural State Medicinals, the Jefferson County medical marijuana grow operation he runs. Like most Arkansans, I’d never been inside a cannabis cultivation facility before, and I was partially and inadvertently to blame for that. In 2019, I assigned a reporter and photographer to tour BOLD Cultivation in Cotton Plant, the first marijuana grower up and running, and the Arkansas Times subsequently ran a story about the operations and pictures of marijuana plants. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which also regulates the medical marijuana industry, followed up by fining BOLD $4,700 and putting it on six months’ probation for violating an ABC rule that prohibited allowing unauthorized personnel inside limited access areas where cannabis was “grown, harvested, processed, and stored.”  

So the inner workings of cannabis producers remained opaque for several years, thanks to the ABC treating a relatively mild intoxicant like it was enriched uranium. Cultivators only got the greenlight to welcome visitors after the 2021 Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 919, which allows entry to anyone 21 or older who has been invited by cultivation staff, as long as they have a valid government ID. Because the ABC’s initial rules prevented legislators from entering the facilities, the industry had little trouble persuading them to change the rules.


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