Medical Marijuana

marijuana
npr.org

Dspite a slow rollout of medical cannabis in Arkansas, public support for the industry is growing.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of likely statewide voters shows the issue has gained momentum since its passage with 53% support in November 2016. In a survey conducted June 9-10, 2020, voters voiced a double-digit increase in approval.

Almost one year since the opening of the first dispensary in the state, Arkansans are continuing to buy medical marijuana, with some dispensaries reporting record sales over the past few weeks.

According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, approximately 11,000 pounds have been sold in total. Those sales amount to $73 million.

Scott Hardin, director of communications for the department, says purchasing habits of medical marijuana have changed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is preparing to consider whether to renew licenses for the state’s dispensaries and growers. During Wednesday’s regular commission meeting, renewal meetings are to be scheduled.

Commissioners must decide by the end of April which licenses will be renewed for the next fiscal year. The state constitutional amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2016 calls for the licenses to be renewed annually.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from issuing more licenses to sell medical marijuana. That's after a Pine Bluff dispensary says it was unfairly overlooked for another applicant.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order as requested by Medicanna of Pine Bluff. Medicanna sued the state Medical Marijuana Commission after another dispensary was awarded a license to sell medical marijuana.

Griffen scheduled a March 3 hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction against the state.

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Nine months after Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business, the first facility in Little Rock has been approved to begin operations.

NEA Full Spectrum More than $25 million has been spent by Arkansas patients to buy medical marijuana so far this year, according to the state.
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

Arkansans have spent $25.7 million for medical marijuana since the state’s first dispensary opened its doors in May, the Department of Finance and Administration reported Tuesday. The sales figure was released on the eve of the expected opening of the state’s 14th dispensary on Wednesday.

"We are really experiencing a busy December," said department spokesman Scott Hardin.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

A hearing was held Tuesday to consider a request by Arkansas's attorney general that a judge not be allowed to hear cases involving her office. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen responded by playing an audio recording of a Sept. 13th hearing after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge alleged he displayed inappropriate behavior toward a member of her staff.

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The infrastructure of Arkansas’s medical marijuana program could grow by early next year, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration.

So far, eight of the state's 32 licensed dispensaries are open, and three of five cultivators are producing product. DFA spokesman Scott Hardin said the two licensed cultivation facilities that have yet to open, Delta Medical Cannabis Co. and Natural State Wellness Enterprises, both in Newport, should be operating by the end of the year.

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Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, which oversees medical marijuana sales and cultivation in the state, is finalizing approval for a third dispensary to open its doors. Arkansas Natural Products, located in Clinton, was inspected by ABC agents earlier this week. Spokesman Scott Hardin with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which includes ABC, said in an interview with KUAR News that it was a positive visit and the dispensary is expected to open next week. 

Dr. Brian Nichol medical marijuana doctor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s second medical marijuana dispensary opened one day earlier than expected. Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs began selling to people Sunday at about 4:15 p.m., according to KTHV-TV. It follows the opening Friday evening of Doctor’s Orders RX, which is also in Hot Springs. A steady stream of people lined up at the first dispensary through the weekend wanting to be among the first to get the drug.

Doctor's Orders Medical Marijuana
Mandy Hrach / KATV-TV

Medicial marijuanan is now available at the first dispensary in Arkansas. Doctor's Orders RX opened its doors Friday night, with lines of people waiting for hours outside the building in the rain to be among the first to get marijuana. Nearly 12,000 patients now have doctor-approved, state-issued medical marijuana cards.

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Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary has been approved to open, though it’ll likely be about a week before it has product for sale. The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control, which is part of the Department of Finance and Administration and regulates medical marijuana, announced Friday that inspectors went through Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs with the local fire marshal and found it met all required standards.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
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Medical marijuana sales in Arkansas are set to begin around May 12 as cultivators plan to begin harvesting the plant in the coming days and regulators finish the approval process for state's first dispensaries.

Department of Finance and Administration Spokesman Scott Hardin said Friday the final decision for licensing Doctor's Orders RX in Hot Springs, which would be the state's first operational dispensary, will be made within the next two weeks.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Facebook

The number of approved medical marijuana ID cards ratcheted upwards nearly 25% only weeks before the first legal cannabis products hit the market in Arkansas.

Late Wednesday, the state Medical Marijuana Commission (MMC) adopted final rules on how cannabis will be transported across the Natural State.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
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Final approval has been given to 32 Arkansas businesses to sell medical marijuana. State officials say the drug could be available to people with qualifying conditions by April.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Tuesday that each of the businesses selected to become a dispensary has paid the required $15,000 license fee and posted a $100,000 performance bond. Four companies were selected in each of the eight zones established statewide.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

The five members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to accept an outside consulting group's scores for marijuana dispensary applications. 

With two new commissioners present, the commission effectively ended two years of regulatory setbacks that waylaid the implementation of the state's medical marijuana amendment, which Arkansas voters approved in Nov. 2016. 

With cultivation licenses already awarded, officials say medical cannabis will likely be available for purchase by the state's nearly 7,000 approved patients by April of 2019. 

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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.

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Officials say thousands of Arkansas residents with valid medical marijuana licenses can receive a temporary medical marijuana adult license in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has issued more than 33,000 patient licenses since voters overwhelmingly authorized medical cannabis in June. And KFSM reports residents of Arkansas and other states with state-issued medical marijuana licenses can apply for a temporary license in Oklahoma.

The temporary license lasts for 30 days. It can be renewed but can't exceed the expiration date on the out-of-state license.

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Two startups located in Little Rock and Jonesboro posted the highest scores among the nearly 200 medical marijuana dispensary applications that were unexpectedly released late Thursday afternoon by the state Medical Marijuana Commission (MMC).

The Freedom of Information document dump comes one day after the five-person MMC board, chaired by Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, postponed a highly-anticipated meeting scheduled for Wednesday to announce the dispensary scores from a pool of nearly 198 applications until new board members are seated at a rescheduled meeting on Jan. 9.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
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The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission says it will wait until early next year to award licenses to the state's first dispensaries for the drug, which voters legalized for medicinal purposes more than two years ago.

The panel had planned to meet later this week to announce the dispensary scores, but the panel on Tuesday pushed back the meeting until Jan. 9 to allow newly appointed commissioners time to be briefed on the issues.

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npr.org

Companies selected to grow medical marijuana in Arkansas are on track to have their product ready for consumption by next April.

Representatives of the five companies approved to cultivate medicinal cannabis spoke to members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission at a commission meeting Wednesday. Of the five companies, two say they expect to harvest their first batch of marijuana by early spring.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
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A company hired to grade Arkansas medical marijuana dispensary applications says it can deliver scores to the state by the end of next month. But at a meeting Tuesday, the chair of the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission voiced concerns that no physicians are part of the scoring team.

Thomas Aldridge, a manager with Public Consulting Group, spoke with commissioners about the process to help decide who should get the 32 licenses for dispensaries that will be spread throughout the state. About 200 entities have submitted applications.

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The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission on Thursday officially agreed to a pact with Boston-based Public Consulting Group to review and score 203 pot dispensary applications and then select up to 32 startup companies to kickstart the fledgling industry by fall.

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The state Medical Marijuana Commission, after a long debate and lots of questions, gave the green light Wednesday for state procurement officials to hire a third-party contractor to review and score applications for cannabis pharmacies across the state.

The decision came after rancorous debate earlier during the 90-minute meeting that led the commission to toss more than a dozen marijuana cultivator applications that did not make the final cut for pot greenhouse licenses that were awarded to five companies in late February.

When Arkansas voters took the step to legalize medical marijuana in the November 2016 election, the Natural State was hailed as an outlier for being the first state in the Southeast U.S. to take such a bold step.

Today, with Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and other surrounding states moving with medical marijuana programs or early stage plans and ballot initiatives to legalize pot, Arkansas is now an example of a “red state” facing marijuana implementation problems with some officials in charge of the process on record as being opposed to the use of marijuana in any capacity.

Guns
Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Five months after the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, a voter-approved ballot initiative, officially took effect, laws regarding handguns have been greatly expanded in Arkansas. But gun owners who register as medical marijuana patients are federally prohibited from purchasing or owning a gun.

On a recent morning, a lone silver-haired man practiced shooting his semi-automatic handgun inside a Tontitown gun range. He slowly fired off a round of bullets, stoped to study his target, a paper human silhouette in the distance riddled with holes, reloaded and took aim again.

Arkansas Supreme Court Lee Rudofsky
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court has cleared the way for the state to launch its medical marijuana program.

Justices on Thursday reversed and dismissed a judge's ruling that prevented officials from issuing the first licenses for businesses to grow the drug.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the state's process for awarding medical marijuana cultivation licenses was unconstitutional.

He said the process violated constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016 that legalized marijuana for patients with certain conditions.

Arkansas Supreme Court Lee Rudofsky
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a challenge by the state to a circuit judge’s order that halted the issuing of medical marijuana cultivation licenses. It was also revealed that investigators are looking into allegations that a bribe was offered by one company to a member of the Medical Marijuana Commission.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the process for how the commission decided which companies would get five licenses was constitutionally flawed.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed briefs with the Arkansas Supreme Court raising legal questions in the state’s expedited appeal of a Pulaski County Circuit Court decision to block the award of medical marijuana cultivation center licenses.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson talking with reporters in his office at the state Capitol.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to expedite an appeal of a judge’s order blocking the issuance of medical marijuana cultivation licenses. He also said Monday that President Donald Trump is ”winning on better trade deals for America” but cautioned against engaging in a trade war with China.

Speaking to reporters in his office Monday, Hutchinson said the state has no choice but to wait for the Supreme Court regarding medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

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