Millions awarded to a Newport commission after 2-year lawsuit

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 9:54 PM CST
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NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - The Newport Economic Development Commission was awarded over $2 million following a settlement involving two separate lawsuits.

The lawsuits began after the medical marijuana license of Natural State Wellness was approved to transfer to Good Day Farms. This transfer was approved by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, according to a news release, in November 2020. In the same meeting, the license transfer was approved along with a location transfer.

“They went to the medical marijuana commission and asked for permission to move their facility. We did not know that was happening,” said Jon Chadwell, Executive Director of Economic Development for the Newport Economic Development Commission.

Chadwell said if the commission knew about this meeting, they would have denied being okay with the move.

Chadwell made a formal request to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to reverse the decision to move the facility. That request was denied, according to a news release.

Natural State Wellness was planned to cultivate medical marijuana at a location on Comet Drive in Newport, but after the license and location transfer approval, the company was moved to Pine Bluff.

The building that the company built on the land and the land sat empty for two years.

The NEDC felt like the community deserved more than just an empty promise.

The commission filed two lawsuits. One to get back the land and the building the company built on the land and another one to receive restitution.

Chadwell said the company sold the property on Comet Drive at a rate lower than market value, so the NEDC wanted that land back to possibly have another company actually use it in the future.

According to a news release, the NEDC won $2,518,015 between both lawsuits.

“We got the building back, we got the land back, and then they gave us a million dollars in restitution towards the economic loss in our community,” said Chadwell.

The city of Newport expected 50 to 60 new jobs when the business announced it would open, with the move the city lost possible jobs and more income for local businesses.

“That brings a lot of income in your community, because the people that work here, they spend their money in town,” said Chadwell. “So, all of the businesses in town would have benefited from this being here.”

The Newport Economic Development Commission is now working to clean up the building and make sure items are working inside the empty facility. They will then put it on the market for other companies to move in and open a business.