By Alex Golden, Times Record / [email protected]
Fort Smith officials are rolling with the changes that come with the state’s new medical marijuana laws.
There are proposed bills in the state legislature that could make changes to Arkansas’ medical marijuana laws. As of now, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment allows cities, towns and counties to make “reasonable zoning regulations” applicable to places that grow or dispense medical marijuana “provided that those zoning regulations are the same as those for a licensed retail pharmacy.”
“We cannot regulate it any different than what we would a licensed retail pharmacy,” Director of Development Services Wally Bailey explained.
Following a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission, the Board of Directors recently approved a resident’s request to allow pharmacies and drug stores in industrial districts, instead of only commercial districts.
The resident, Storm Nolan, intends to put a cultivation facility — a place where medical marijuana is grown — in an industrial district if permitted by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.
Applications to the commission may be submitted beginning July 1. If Nolan’s application is approved, he plans to place an enclosed greenhouse-style cultivation facility in a warehouse downtown, he said over the phone.
The facility would likely employ 20 to 30 people, he said.
Nolan said he is interested in growing medical marijuana because many Arkansans abuse opioids and medical marijuana will be a safer alternative.
“I think for sure the cultivation facilities need to be located in the industrial — maybe even limited to the industrial — districts,” Bailey said.
Bailey explained that commercial districts are sometimes next to residential areas and that cultivation facilities could act almost as distribution centers, making them a better fit for industrial districts.
There is a bill in the Arkansas Senate that, if passed, would change the part that mandates medical