By Tafi Mukunyadzi/ASSOCIATED PRESS
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas will soon begin taking applications from those who hope to grow and dispense medical marijuana, though the state’s strong religious heritage and restrictions imposed by the Legislature will limit where greenhouses and distributors can operate.
In Pine Bluff, the Planning and Development Commission on Tuesday approved a request by two Little Rock businessmen to operate a medical marijuana cultivation facility just north of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff baseball stadium. The facility would be one of five such facilities allowed under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Board, which set the rules after Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment in November to legalize medical marijuana. The five facilities would operate as wholesale operations distributing to 32 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.
Bill Rector, a Little Rock realtor and president of Renaissance Properties Limited, teamed with Rick Henderson, owner of a Little Rock tree trimming company called Apple Tree Service, to request the permit under their company, Newsouth Agriculture, LLC. Voters last November made Arkansas the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical marijuana, clearing its use by people with certain medical conditions. While setting up rules for licensing, legislators said growers must be at least 3,000 feet from churches, schools or daycares, while dispensaries must be 1,500 feet away. The limits will make it tough for some towns and small cities to host marijuana operations.
“Some cities are reviewing where churches, schools and daycare centers might preclude the location of cultivation facilities and dispensaries,” said Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League.
Arkansas had 6,697 congregations, synagogues and Muslim houses of worship in 2010, according to a study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Zimmerman said many towns have so many churches that it could be difficult to