‘Green’ Business

‘Green’ Business

Pot farming considered agricultural, judge rules


A proposed marijuana farm can start operations without Quorum Court approval, a Washington County Circuit judge has decided.

Growing marijuana falls under agricultural use, which is what the 48 acres is zoned, Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin decided in an April 4 summary judgment. The area is rural, off Bush Road near Cane Hill and Lincoln.

Native Flower, a nonprofit corporation, asked last year for a permit to grow marijuana. The county Planning Board approved it. The Quorum Court denied it.

Native Flower filed an appeal Jan. 4, saying it never needed a permit.

County Attorney Brian Lester didn’t respond to email questions about the case.

Former Planning Director Jim Kimbrough said earlier this year the facility didn’t fit into agriculture and was treated like a pharmacy. Lester argued in court filings the county has the right to regulate the facility and treated the project like a “licensed retail pharmacy.”

Justices of the peace said in December the facility should be in an industrial area or industrial park. Other justices of the peace said they have a moral obligation to prohibit marijuana cultivation.

Martin’s ruling against the county means Native Flower won’t need a permit to farm marijuana.

The county didn’t appeal the ruling, so the verdict stands, said Jason Wales, attorney representing Native Flower.

Justices of the peace must tighten the language in the county’s land-use ordinance if they want marijuana cultivation to require a waiver, Wales said. That would require future marijuana cultivation facilities to go through a permit process, he said.

Justice of the Peace Bill Ussery, a Republican representing northeastern Springdale, said the Ordinance Review Committee plans to review the issue soon. Ussery is chairman of the Ordinance Review Committee, which reviews and updates county ordinances.

Native Flower won’t start growing marijuana any time soon, Wales said.

Arkansans approved legalizing medical cannabis by approving Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution in 2016. The drug must be grown and processed in state. Five companies were chosen earlier this year, but the process stalled in the wake of a lawsuit.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen struck down the licensing process for medical marijuana cultivation facilities, such as Native Flower, in a March 21 order. The Arkansas Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over the judge’s decision.

Native Flower isn’t involved in that lawsuit, Wales said.

Native Flower Proposal

Native Flower proposed a 4,160-square-foot work center, or “head house,” and four 3,840-square-foot greenhouses on 1.5 acres, county records show. Security would be high and traffic low, according to county records.

— Source: Washington County Planning Department

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