The struggling Arkansas town of Cotton Plant hopes that medical marijuana will be a salvation’s wing after several fleeting industries left the town for dead. Mayor Willard C. Ryland told the New York Times earlier this week that marijuana has brought hope back to the community after decades of harsh economic times. He says the town is in such bad shape that it hasn’t even been able to attract Dollar General Store. But legal weed could soon move the area into a time of renewal and prosperity.
When Arkansas voters approved a measure in 2016 aimed at legalizing a statewide medical marijuana program, the folks of Cotton Plant were given s second chance at living the America dream. The language of the law was written in such a way that all of the most downtrodden jurisdictions are to receive first dibs on any opportunities provided by the medical marijuana industry. And this small Delta-town is one of the worst the state has to offer. It has seen the rise and fall of several industries throughout the years. But it’s never recovered.
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However, the town is on its way to becoming the location of one of the first five medical marijuana cultivation centers in the state. A start-up called Bold Team recently approached the mayor about leasing several acres for the sole purpose of growing the state’s newest cash crop — marijuana. It is a situation that could lead to the creation of around 25 new jobs, initially. The company would also donate a percentage of its sales to the city budget.
“I consider it a miracle, I really do,” Mayor Ryland told the New York Times. “This is what we’ve been looking for. And what’s remarkable about it is that they came and found us,” he added.
But there have been some snags.
Although the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has given Bold Team approval to launch operations in Cotton Plant, a judge in Little Rock recently declared the licensing process “null and void.” It seems that some members of the commission have been accused of having close connections with the license winners. The ruling is now set to go before the State Supreme Court.
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There is no doubt that Cotton Plant needs the medical marijuana company to rebuilt its community. As it stands, the town doesn’t have a bank and the closest grocery store is 12 miles out of town. In fact, the only existing retail business inside the town limits is a small convenience store. Yet, the existence of the cultivation center would likely lure in other businesses, including that Dollar General Store the town has been trying to secure.
Mayor Ryland said he went through a bit of a moral dilemma before voting in favor of medical marijuana. But now “I look at this no different than if Bayer aspirin were coming to Cotton Plant,” he said.