When medical marijuana was legalized in Arkansas in 2016 cannabis growers were encouraged to establish themselves in small towns in need of an economic boost. For poor towns like Cotton Plant, the new legal cannabis farms have been a godsend.
"I consider it a miracle, I really do,” Cotton Plant Mayor Willard C. 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.” Mayor Ryland is a conservative Christian, but the moral questions around marijuana didn't deter him from jumping on the opportunity to do business with the cannabis company Bold Team LLC.
The company has stated it will be bringing 25 jobs to Cotton Plant and pledged to contribute 1 percent of its gross sales to the city budget. Establishment of cannabis farms in impoverished areas has been the line taken by many of the sates who have legalized the substance. In some instances rules have been adopted to bring minority-groups into the fold as well.
The citizens of Cotton Plant seem to be on-board with Ryland's vision of a new economy in their town.
“Everybody’s happy about it, because it’s bringing jobs,” said Kiyona Woods as she waited to receive her share of groceries from the Cotton Plant food bank. “We’re going to need something here in Cotton Plant — everything’s failing.”
“I look at this no different than if Bayer aspirin were coming to Cotton Plant,” says Ryland of the incoming cannabis business.
There are some complications though. A Little Rock judge found the company set to establish their grow-op in Cotton Plant had ties to two of the other four companies who received licenses to grow cannabis in Arkansas. The ruling has been appealed by the Arkansas attorney general to the State Supreme Court. Ryland is optimistic about what he thinks the outcome will be.