Arkansas regulators have announced that they have formally awarded all 32 licenses for cannabis dispensaries that will operate under the state’s medical marijuana program. Officials at the Department of Finance and Administration said on Tuesday that all 32 licensees approved last month paid the required $15,000 licensing fee and have posted a $100,000 performance bond. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the department, said the dispensaries are now authorized to begin serving patients.
“They have completed everything required of them, so at this point technically they are licensed,” said Hardin. “They will receive a formal piece of paper, a license over the next week to make it official, but really at this point, it is simply a matter of how quickly can these 32 companies open their doors for business.”
Hardin said that some of the approved dispensaries have already begun construction and should be open as soon as this spring.
“You have some companies that were in anticipation of a license, hopeful anticipation, were proactively getting their facilities ready, so some of those, we think, could be open as early as April,” he said. “We think it would be a very limited number. We think it’s really going to start taking off in the summer.”
MMJ ID Cards On the Way
The department also announced on Tuesday that the state has begun distributing medical marijuana identification cards to patients that have been approved for the program. The cards have an effective date of February 15 and will be required for patients to make purchases at the newly licensed cannabis dispensaries. The department had planned to issue them once dispensaries were prepared to open, but changed course when officials in neighboring Oklahoma announced it would allow patients with cards from other states to purchase cannabis. Connie Melton, branch chief for health systems, licensing and certification for the state Department of Health, said at the time that patients in Arkansas wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.
“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,” Melton said.
So far, at least one company licensed by the state to cultivate cannabis has already begun to grow plants. Hardin said that after many delays, the medical marijuana program approved by voters in 2016 should finally be fully operational by summer.
“This is all hopefully coming together to really see this industry start taking off here in a couple of months. I know it’s been over two years to get to this point, so the frustration is understandable,” Hardin said. “The good news is we’re finally there and it’s just a matter of time until we can have it and Arkansans can go to that dispensary to get that product.”