Arkansas’ new medical marijuana industry is expected to generate thousands of new jobs for the state.
With Arkansas’ upcoming medical marijuana industry slated from launch early next year, companies are already obtaining for licenses to grow and sell the substance. According to a report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, cannabis industry professionals and advocates expect the industry to create between 500 and 600 new jobs in the short term before eventually generating 1,500 new employment opportunities as the market grows.
“That’s not a small number, and as demand continues to ramp up, I see that number growing all the time,” Storm Nolan, president of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, recently told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “A lot of it hinges on how well we do educating physicians and patients.”
Arkansas voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment last November to legalize medical cannabis. The new program will allow patients with a written certification from a licensed physician to purchase and possess cannabis for 18 conditions and symptoms like chronic pain, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and arthritis. The state estimates that between 20,000 and 40,000 patients will qualify and register for medical marijuana.
The law also established a system for the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of medical cannabis. It means the creation of new companies and therefore new jobs to handle the growing, testing, and selling of cannabis products as the program becomes operational. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has already authorized five cultivation facilities and 32 dispensaries and has mandated that the facilities by majority owned by Arkansas.
“It’s for medical use. Typically, the people will be immune-compromised in some way or they’ve got some ailment going on, so you’ve got to make sure that it’s safe for people to consume,” said Kyle Felling, the owner of one of a testing laboratories in Arkansas that will have the opportunity expand with the new industry. “That’s where the laboratory comes in and my company comes in.”
The Arkansas Department of Health requires that medical marijuana first be tested for potency, pesticides, and the presence of heavy metals before it can be distributed. Felling has said he plans to hire a chemist, several lab technicians, drivers, and samplers as he prepares for testing cannabis.
“We’ll help improve the quality of the material that’s provided to customers,” he said.
Hundreds more jobs are expected to be created by ancillary businesses like law and marketing firms and construction companies, which support the industry but don’t directly touch cannabis or infused products.
“There’s inventory tracking systems. Somebody’s going to sell that, monitor that,” said David Couch, a lawyer from Little Rock who sponsored the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. “All the lights have to be sold and installed. There’s construction. It’s going to cost a couple million dollars just to build out a facility. You’re going to employ carpenters – construction people. Then you’re going to need security along with production and testing.”
Medical marijuana is expected to be available for Maryland patients as early as January 2018.
Arkansas is one of 29 U.S. states that have passed a law permitting marijuana for medical purposes. You can learn more about the cannabis laws in Arkansas and throughout the U.S. by visiting our education page.