Updated 12:03 pm, Saturday, March 24, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas judge who put the brakes on the state’s medical marijuana program didn’t do so because of an objection to legalizing pot’s use for certain patients. In fact, he was downright apologetic about putting the program on hold because of objections to the licensing process.

“Amendment 98 to the Constitution of Arkansas, an initiative by the people, exists because Arkansans want to provide medical marijuana to persons who suffer from chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening health challenges,” Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen wrote in his order last week. “The prospect that Arkansans must now endure more delay before gaining much needed access to locally grown medical marijuana should be unpleasant to anyone concerned about providing relief to people who suffer from serious illnesses.”

Griffen last week declared the state’s decision to issue its first licenses to grow medical marijuana, and the ranking of 95 applicants for the cultivation permits, null and void after ruling the licensing process violated the 2016 voter-approved amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The decision, which the state is appealing to the Arkansas Supreme Court, has left in limbo what was going to be the first medical marijuana program in the Bible Belt.

Griffen sided with an unsuccessful applicant who had argued the five-member Medical Marijuana Commission’s process for evaluating and awarding licenses was flawed. The judge said the process was compromised by two potential conflicts of interest by commissioners, and that the state failed to evaluate whether proposed cultivation facilities were the required 3,000 feet away from schools, churches and daycare centers.

“To put it bluntly, the Medical Marijuana Commission and Alcoholic Beverage Control Division have proceeded in a manner that defies due process and the rule of law,

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