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Medical Marijuana Could Be Available to Arkansas Patients by January 2018

An official at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration predicts that medical marijuana will become available for patients to purchase early next year.

Qualified medical marijuana patients in Arkansas should be able to purchase cannabis as early as January 2018, according to an official at the state’s Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). Joel DiPippa, an attorney for the DFA, announced in an interview that the department submitted its rule proposals to the Legislature for approval ahead of its May 8 deadline. The Arkansas State Legislature will review the rules in the coming weeks.

The Medical Marijuana Commission will begin to accept license applications for cultivation facilities and dispensaries on July 1. The law allows the licensing of up to eight cultivation facilities and 40 dispensaries. Interested parties have 45 days to submit their applications, which will be judged on merit. The commission is expected to start announcing which cultivation facilities and dispensaries will be issued licenses about six weeks after the deadline.

“Hopefully by the end of September, we will see the first cultivation facility and dispensary licenses being issued, awarded,” DiPippa said. “And then that gives three months of time where it may take them to build out and meet the requirements.”

“We have received a huge amount of public interest in this, so my expectation is that we will be moving forward as quickly as we can to process applications and/or licenses,” DiPippa added.

Fifty-three percent of Arkansas voters approved Issue 6 last November to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Under the law, patients with a written certification from a licensed physician can purchase and possess cannabis. Twelve conditions and six symptoms have been approved under the law, and the Department of Health can also approve medical cannabis on a case-by-case basis for any other condition.

Since voters approved the initiative, state legislators have passed 24 laws to amended it, but none of the changes make severe restrictions to patients accessing cannabis. Lawmakers decided to prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana in a motor vehicle, in the presence of a child under the age of 14 or pregnant women, or in any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited. Qualified patients under the age of 21 are banned from smoking marijuana. Products cannot contain more than 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The lawmakers also imposed additional regulations on packaging to make them childproof, and banned marketing efforts that appeal to children.

The General Assembly, currently in recess, must sign off on the rules and regulations by May 8. Otherwise, they’ll be in violation of the state’s constitution. The DFA expects the state’s medical marijuana program to mature 18 months after it becomes operational, and that it will eventually generate $40 million to $45 million in retail sales.

Arkansas is one of 29 U.S. states to pass laws to establish a comprehensive, regulated medical marijuana program. West Virginia became the latest to do so earlier this month. You can learn more about the cannabis laws throughout the U.S. by visiting our education page.