LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – More than 35 pounds of medical marijuana is now in the hands of patients since the Natural State’s first sale May 10.
Arkansas officials only expect that number to grow when a new form hits shelves next week. The state’s only cultivator currently supplying medical marijuana, BOLD Team, plans to stock the state’s two dispensaries with edibles.
“I think edibles will be probably at least half the market,” said Scott Hardin, the spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Hardin said patients won’t see products like brownies, chocolate chip cookies or candy at Doctor’s Orders RX and Green Springs Medical because state law prohibits it, but there is room for creativity.
“While you can’t have a gummy bear, you could have a gummy that looks like a vitamin that you would pull off the shelf at any local pharmacy,” Hardin said.
What the state hasn’t seen a surge in is patients applying for ID cards to get a pot prescription.
“There’s been a steady flow every day of applications,” said Connie Melton, the director of Health Systems Licensing and Regulation at the Arkansas Department of Health.
The department has approved nearly 12,000 patients to purchase the product with the expectation that 20,000 to 40,000 Arkansans would eventually have a card.
“We anticipate getting to the projected number,” Melton said.
Within the next month, Hardin expects a dispensary in the capital city and in the northwest and northeast parts of the state to open their doors. A second cultivation facility, Natural State Medicinals, should have its first harvest within the next few weeks, while Osage Creek is on track for mid-summer.
“Patients are ready,” Hardin said.
More Arkansans could also get in the medical marijuana business soon as processors and transporters. Cultivators can decide whether to hire these third parties.
Hardin anticipates the first processing licenses to go out as early as summer, while state lawmakers and the governor still have to approve transportation rules.
“One thing to note: if it’s pulled over by a law enforcement officer and the law enforcement officer sees a large load of medical marijuana, there will be a very specific manifest in it that says we left the cultivation favcility at this time, we’ll be arriving at this time, call this number to verify that,” he said. “For patients, they have full authority under the amendment to have up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana on them. However, it’s probably smart to keep that patient card with you and not a requirement, but the original packaging would be helpful.”
Melton advises prospective patients to apply online over in-person or by mail. She said the department has had to return incomplete, mailed-in applications with missing social security numbers, physician DEA numbers and/or office visit dates.
There is currently one lab in the state that tests medical marijuana, which Melton said takes about 24 hours. She expects more to come on board as more cultivators harvest more product for sellers.