Benton County Judge Barry Moehring has told county officials that it is not their jobs to “relitigate a matter people voted for,” referring to the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis, rather it is a planning board matter.
According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Moehring made the statement during a Quorum Court meeting after Justice of the Peace Brent Meyers asked him for clarification on the matter, concerned that the county would be approving an illegal business due to conflicting federal law.
Under the constitutional amendment, the only way a city or county can prohibit cannabis industry operations is via a local referendum.
“The state is setting up regulations for it,” Moehring told Meyers, according to the report. “The Planning Department has those. Our job is, within our planning regulations, to follow the law.”
In a memo to Moehring, George Spence, county attorney, said that while the Justice Department could choose to shut down state-approved medical cannabis facilities, “the state is going about providing regulations as provided for in the amendment.”
However, while officials are moving forward, cannabis industry operator licenses have been slow to materialize in the state. As of Aug. 31, just two dispensaries had applied, and one was rejected by the Russellville Planning Commission. Some officials are expecting an influx of applications as the Sept. 18 deadline draws closer.
The Benton County Planning Board is set to hear the medical cannabis cultivation proposal today.