Texarkana adopts business-licensing system for pot
TEXARKANA — Leaders in Texarkana set the cost of doing medical-marijuana business in the city, despite some objection that officials are moving too fast.
In a move City Manager Kenny Haskin said would lead the way for the rest of Arkansas, the Texarkana Board of Directors voted unanimously Monday to adopt a business-licensing structure for medical cannabis cultivation centers, where the plant will be grown, and dispensaries, where it will be sold.
Cultivation centers will pay the city an initial business license fee of $50,000 and thereafter $50,000 a year for renewal. Medical-marijuana dispensaries will pay $7,500 for an initial license and $11,250 for renewal.
An annual surcharge equal to 25 percent of a dispensary’s inventory had been included in a previous version of the ordinance, but it was dropped before the vote to make the city more competitive in attracting dispensaries, Haskin said.
The board fast-tracked the measure, reading it all three of the required times and voting on it during the same meeting. Board members also voted to enact an emergency clause making the ordinance effective immediately.
The speed was necessary to give potential marijuana business owners certainty about what they can expect in Texarkana as they proceed with the state license application process now under way, Haskin said. The vote had been tabled at the board’s July 5 meeting because Haskin was absent and, therefore, unable to answer any questions about the ordinance.
“One of the concerns that we have with delaying again, that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the investors and folks who are in business and other cities that are looking to Texarkana for leadership on this issue.
“With all due respect, I clearly understand some of the opposition, but at the same time we have an obligation as a board, as a city, as a staff to make sure that we provide guidance to those who are truly interested in opening a business in Texarkana,” Haskin said.
Both Tracy Harris, pastor of Harvest International Ministries, and Richard Wagnon, a resident, spoke in favor of putting the ordinance through the normal procedure of reading and discussing it at three discrete, consecutive meetings before a vote.
“I would ask you at the very minimum tap the brakes on this, have at least three readings, give us an opportunity to come with statistics,” said Harris, who argued that medical-marijuana businesses would have a negative effect on Texarkana and damage the city’s reputation.
Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell and a city director, Travis Odom, said they were against legalizing medical marijuana generally but recognized the need for the city to be ready now that voters statewide have decided to allow it.
“We cannot do one thing about it. We can just be prepared,” Penney-Bell said.
The board also fast-tracked and approved changes to the city zoning ordinance regarding medical-marijuana businesses, adding relevant definitions, adopting state restrictions on the businesses’ signage and defining which zones they may operate in.
State law requires cultivation centers and dispensaries to be allowed in whatever zones retail pharmacies are located. The new local ordinance removes pharmacies from O-1, or office quiet, zones so marijuana businesses may not operate there. Office quiet zones allow certain businesses to locate among homes in residential neighborhoods.
Local zoning will now allow land use of cultivation centers and dispensaries in all commercial and industrial zones except those designated O-1 and W-1. State regulations dictate that cultivation centers must be 3,000 feet and dispensaries 1,500 feet from any church, school or daycare.