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Arkansas Medical Cannabis Program Finally Getting Underway

Earlier this month, thirty-two dispensary licenses were formally issued

It took 25 months, but medical cannabis patients in Arkansas will finally be able to purchase cannabis legally by April of this year. Voters passed Proposition 98 in the November 2016 election, which legalized medical cannabis in the state. Over 53 percent of voters cast their ballots in support of the measure, but legal and regulatory delays held up the implementation of the program.

Earlier this month, thirty-two dispensary licenses were formally issued. Of course, they can’t engage in the sale of cannabis, until there is an actual commodity to market.

Five companies were granted licenses to grow cannabis in the state, but those licenses weren’t issued until July of last year. Construction of their facilities is in different stages. Three are already in the process of growing, but Delta Medical Cannabis Company and Natural State Wellness ran into problems when it was revealed that their facilities would be located near the Arkansas State University-Newport campus.

Amendment 98 states that cultivation centers must not be within 3,000 feet of the nearest church, school or day care. Hardcore opponents of Amendment 98, like State Sen. Bill Sample (R-Hot Springs), asked the State attorney general to weigh in as to whether ASU-Newport was a “school,” because students from nearby high schools attend the institution for vocational and advanced classes. In order to avoid further delays, both companies moved their facilities to new locations and predict that they’ll have medical cannabis available by June.

The cultivation companies report that they’ll be growing between 13 and 25 strains of cannabis, each with varying levels of THC and CBD to treat different qualifying medical conditions.

The Arkansas medical program specifies 18 conditions that allow a patient to legally purchase their medicine: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, peripheral neuropathy, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms and intractable pain that hasn’t responded to ordinary treatments for at least six months. Thus far, 6,457 patients have been approved, but that number is expected to rise to 20,000 by the end of 2020. Patients are required to only use cannabis grown in the state.

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