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Arkansas To Issue User Medical Marijuana ID Cards Next Month, Official Says


As Arkansas works to finish implementing its medical marijuana program, Oklahoma is offering to let qualified people apply for temporary licenses and receive the drug there. But Arkansans would need a user ID card from the state Department of Health, and so far those haven’t been provided.

"Originally the agency thought it was in the patient’s best interest to not issue the Arkansas medical marijuana registry ID card until about 30 days prior to the availability of Arkansas medical marijuana," said Connie Melton, branch chief for health systems, licensing and certification for the department. "That way their card wouldn’t expire prior to them being able to use it, they wouldn’t have to pay again to renew, so the cards have been on hold."

Arkansas has been slow in rolling out its medical marijuana program compared to other states. The constitutional amendment was approved by voters in November 2016, while Oklahoma voters approved a less restrictive proposal last June and opened dispensaries on New Year’s Day.

Melton says the department has determined roughly 7,000 Arkansans have conditions that qualify them for marijuana, with many now wanting to apply for a temporary license in Oklahoma. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission meets next Wednesday to certify scores for entities that have applied to become dispensaries. It is expected the drug won’t be available in the state until April.

"Approved patients have called and requested that their card be made available so that they can take advantage of the Oklahoma visiting patient opportunity, and so pending the outcome of the marijuana commission meeting next week and the scoring of the dispensaries, the agency anticipates issuing Arkansas Medical Marijuana Registry ID cards within the next 30 days."

A temporary license from Oklahoma would be good for 30 days and the applicant would have to pay a $100 fee. One conflict is that language in the Arkansas constitutional amendment requires patients to buy the drug in the state.

David Couch who sponsored the amendment responded to a post by a KUAR reporter on Twitter by calling Wednesday's comment by the health department "good news." He also wrote that the Arkansas General Assembly should reject the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission rule "trying to make criminals out of patients going to Oklahoma. It’s been over 2 years since voters approved this and the MMC is the reason no patient has the medicine they need."

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
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