With a 5-0 vote on Wednesday, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission approved dispensary scoring recommendations from an outside consultant, which paves the way for licensing of the 32 facilities that will sell medical cannabis in the state.

Arkansas is split into eight zones, and the four highest scoring applicants in each may apply for a dispensary license. The state will mail “Intent to Award a License” letters to top-ranking applicants on Monday, Jan. 14. Once a company receives the letter, they have seven days to pay the required $15,000 licensing fee and post the $100,000 performance bond. Once this is done, the licenses will be awarded.

Representatives from Public Consulting Group (PCG), the third-party firm tasked with reviewing the state’s 198 dispensary applications, explained the scoring process to commissioners ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

The panel ultimately signaled its approval by ratifying PCG’s scores. However, some in the audience were not as pleased.

“We are going to organize an opposition to this scoring process,” said Baron Crane of New Leaf Cannabis Company.

The company applied for a dispensary license in Zone 1 and Zone 2, but was unsuccessful in both. Crane said one scorer gave a majority of dispensary applicants the same number of points in multiple sections of the application.

“We did a statistical analysis on the scores, and we found the consultants actually gave the same score in certain sections on 180 of 200 applications. That's 90 percent of the applications received the same score,” Crane said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, PCG health manager Thomas Aldridge, noted that some applications were hundreds of pages long. Another PCG representative told commissioners that once they reached the end of the process, the team spent “a little over an hour” scoring each application.

“This just means they got overwhelmed and they started copying their scores down,” Crane said.

However, Aldridge told the commission PCG scored based on instructions set out in the applications.

“We weren’t always reviewing 6-700 pages, if it was not referenced in the initial 25-page narrative, so that was a big piece of that,” Aldridge said.

Crane has submitted a letter of protest to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and said a lawsuit could be forthcoming.

Following Wednesday’s vote, the Arkansas Department of Health intends to issue ID cards to more than 6700 patients approved for medical marijuana. In turn, they can apply for a temporary card in Oklahoma where cannabis is already available for purchase.

To view the list of companies that applied by zone and location, click here.

For companies that applied in multiple locations and scored high for several, they will have to choose one location they want to license.

The next commission meeting is Feb. 13. 

This is an updated version of a previous story.