Evolving story: The politics of medical marijuana in Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Evolving story: The politics of medical marijuana in Arkansas

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 10:56 AM

The politics of medical marijuana in Arkansas will be an interesting story as it evolves.
TRAVIS STORY: Marijuana commissioner may get to vote on permit application with connections for former political ally.
  • TRAVIS STORY: Marijuana commissioner may get to vote on permit application with connections for former political ally.
Could it, for example, become an issue in congressional races? It is an issue that doesn't break as neatly along partisan lines as, say, abortion and gay rights.  A group supporting legal marijuana notes today that 69 U.S. representatives are pushing legislation to ensure that federal Justice Department money cannot be used to interfere with states that have authorized some form of legal marijuana. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened this. Will Arkansas's congressmen support this measure? (Not likely, I'd guess.) Will the election opponents of the Republicans in Congress from Arkansas make it an issue? Voters of all sorts passed medical marijuana by a healthy margin in the state, after all.

And what of the licensing process? Where big money can be made, big politics normally are intertwined. Here, for example, is a tidbit worth watching

The pile of applications for licenses to either cultivate or dispense medical marijuana in Arkansas include these: Texarkana Central LLC, for a dispensary license, with the listed incorporator of Sheila Wagnon, and Regeneration Naturals LLC for a cultivation license with the listed incorporator again being Sheila Wagnon. An incorporator is not necessarily an owner of an enterprise. Much of the information in the applications is redacted so that the marijuana commissioners reviewing the applications won't be influenced by ownership information.

But, a reader tells me, Sheila Wagnon is the wife of Richard Wagnon and they were leaders of the successful drive to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Texarkana City Council to protect the civil rights of gay people.  So?

From a Texarkana Gazette article on a meeting to organize the opposition, quoting Richard Wagnon

"This (ordinance) will lead to potential discrimination towards me, as a Christian, and my religious beliefs. And I want to take a stand on that. And yet you're saying that you need protection from some perceived discrimination that I haven't even heard of. Ultimately this is all going to boil down to the citizens' vote."

Wagnon's wife, Sheila Wagnon, introduced Arkansas Attorney Travis Story, who has been involved in contesting similar ordinances in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Hot Springs, Eureka Springs and other cities throughout the state.
The article went on to quote Story extensively on ills of the ordinance.

To complete the circle: Travis Story is a Fayetteville lawyer (partner with Republican state Rep. Bob Ballinger) who was appointed to the Medical Marijuana Commission by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam. He will be voting on who gets the potentially lucrative cannabis permits.

Hundreds of applications are being reviewed for 32 dispensary and five cultivation permits.  It's a good bet that the Wagnon-Story connection isn't the only instance of past associations. This IS a small, friendly state after all.

I've made calls to Wagnon and Story. No response so far.

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