Jefferson County is now the only county in Arkansas that has been approved for the establishment of two medical marijuana facilities. The facilities have been licensed by the state to grow medical marijuana under a 2016 voter-approved amendment that legalized the drug for certain patients.
The two companies are Natural State Wellness Enterprises, which will be located east of the Pines Mall where U.S. 65 and Interstate 530 meet and is partially owned by Hank Wilkins V, the son of Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, and Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, whose CEO is Joseph C. Courtwright, which will be located on Gravel Pit Rd. near exit 27 on Interstate 530.
Bold Team LLC in Woodruff County, Osage Creek Cultivation in Carroll County and Delta Medical Cannabis Company Inc. in Jackson County are the other licensees chosen by the state last week.
Around Jefferson County on Monday, the mood was positive that the medical marijuana industry will create an economic impact on the area.
“I think this is another step in Pine Bluff’s economic resurgence,” said Caleb McMahon, Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development.
Natural State Wellness had originally applied for Jackson County and Jefferson County and had to make a decision on which county they would settle in. On Friday, it was decided that the facility will be located in Jefferson County.
Bart Calhoun, of McDaniel, Richardson and Calhoun, is the attorney, government relations liaison, and an investor for Natural State Wellness. He said that the group had applied for licenses in two counties because they didn’t know at the time where the other approved facilities would be located, and Jackson and Jefferson Counties are both Tier 4 counties.
Each county in Arkansas is graded by tiers implemented by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which ranks all 75 counties into four divisions on the basis of economic prosperity. Tier 1 counties are the most prosperous, while Tier 4 counties are the least prosperous.
When asked what persuaded his group to build in Jefferson County, Calhoun said, “Jefferson County is centrally located. Clients looked at the economics of Jefferson County, and it seemed to be a great fit.”
Former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who has done legal work for Jefferson County, is also a partial owner of Natural State Wellness.
Natural State Wellness is now working on getting a $500,000 performance bond and paying their $100,000 license fee to the Medical Marijuana Commission with hopes of getting started on construction depending on the weather and size of the facility.
“We are very excited to be in Jefferson County,” Calhoun said. “People put a lot of trust in us and we hope to fulfill the patients’ medical needs and look forward to serving the county.”
In a previous interview, Wilkins IV spoke about the potential economic impact medical marijuana could have on Jefferson County.
“I am excited,” the judge said. “For me, personally, it’s not as much about the money. It’s a business model that helps people deal with their situation, whether it’s end of life, or whether it’s emotional or physical in terms of preparing themselves for what is to come, surgery, etc. It is a very, very positive thing. (Medical marijuana will) benefit our county because there will be a significant number of jobs. It will start out small, probably 50 to 100 people. But that is a lot of jobs, especially for our area. The return on the money to our local economy is what I am so pleased about.”
Ownership stakes in Natural State WellnessWilliam Young holds the majority ownership with a 34 percent stake. Hank Wilkins V holds a 17 percent stake. John Allison holds a 7.79 percent stake. Dr. Thomas Stank holds a 5.19 percent stake. Willian Carwell holds a 3.12 percent stake. Melissa Moody holds a 3 percent stake. Bobby McDaniel holds a 2.60 percent stake. Bobbi McDaniel holds a 2.08 percent stake.Bob Haun holds a 2.08 percent stake. Ladd Scriber holds a 2.08 percent stake. Martha Rouby holds a 2 percent stake. Amy Hall holds a 1.56 percent stake.Leo Hauser holds a 1.56 percent stake. Dr. Bruce Sanderson holds a 1.56 percent stake. Jeffery Ryan holds a 1.56 percent stake. Marvin Parks holds a 1.56 percent stake. Christine Edmonson holds a 1.04 percent stake. Ryan Heringer holds a 1.04 percent stake. David Johnston holds a 1.04 percent stake. Robert Jones holds a 1.04 percent stake. Dustin McDaniel holds a 1.04 percent stake. Kristy McDaniel holds a 1.04 percent stake. Bill Stanley holds a 1.04 percent stake. Steven White holds a 0.51 percent stake. Warren Ross holds a 0.31 percent stake. Dr. Daniel Johnson holds a 0.18 percent stake.
Ownership stakes in Natural State Medicinals CultivationDr. Joseph Charles Courtright, P.D., is the majority owner with a 15.72 percent stake, followed Susan D. Williams, who holds a 15.02 percent stake. Wendy Perdue LaFrance holds a 10.07 percent stake. Dr. Kelli D. Schlesinger, M.D. holds a 10.07 percent stake. Dr. Alonzo Dean Williams Sr., M.D., holds an 8.45 percent stake. Kathryne Deane Peck, RDN, holds a 7.51 percent stake. Dr. Donna Mae Mooney, Ph.D., holds a 7.51 percent stake. Stephen Lee LaFrance holds a 5.66 percent stake. Dr. Scott Michael Schlesinger, M.D., holds a 5.66 percent stake. Robert DeBin holds a 4.46 percent stake. Dr. Clifton Bolen Peck, DVM, holds a 4.23 percent stake. Dr. Donald Keith Mooney, M.D., holds a 4.23 percent stake. Donna Terrell holds a 1.41 percent stake.