For the first time in nearly a century, cannabis seeds have been legally planted in Arkansas.
The state awarded a total of only five licenses for medical marijuana producers, and BOLD Team Cultivation is officially the first to begin the process. BOLD TEAM LLC said that they are, “pleased to announce that we have been granted approval to begin cultivation of medical marijuana.”
“The cultivation process is now underway and we expect to have medicine available to dispensaries in April 2019,” the company said in a statement. “We are honored to begin meeting the medical needs of so many Arkansans at this historic moment in our great state.”
Site approval was given by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control on January 10, 2019. BOLD Team LLC expects to harvest in time to have product on the shelves by April of this year. The first operating cultivation center is located in Cotton Plant, AK, about 80 miles west of Memphis and approximately 75 minutes northeast of Little Rock. This cultivation center creates 20 to 25 new jobs in Cotton Plant, a town with a population of only 600.
According to Scott Hardin of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, there will be 32 licensed dispensaries in the state, and the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control is working now to issue those licenses. Medical marijuana cards for the 7,000 expected patients are not set to be issued until 30 days before product hits dispensary shelves.
“Currently, we are talking with different dispensaries trying to – pun intended – cultivate relationships with them to where we can have a solid date to be able to have the medicine on the shelves,” said Robert Lercher, BOLD director of customer relations. “We’re just excited about being one step closer to the medicine being available to the patients that have waited so long for it in Arkansas.”
Voters approved Issue 6 on November 8, 2016, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana prohibition began in Arkansas in 1923.
Even though Arkansas’ medical marijuana law took effect on November 9, 2016, those anxious to apply for a registration card are still waiting for their opportunity. Held up for the better part of a year due to lawmakers, the wait is almost over as Arkansas will soon be accepting medical cannabis applications.
Why Has It Taken So Long?
In a progressive move from a state that’s counted as part of the Bible Belt, Arkansas passed a law allowing cannabis for medicinal use. However, it wasn’t long before lawmakers with concerns enacted emergency legislation, halting the new law. House Bill 1026 required that more time be spent sorting out the specifics of the law. Issues such as where the medicine should be grown and how it should be dispensed were only a few of the expressed concerns.
Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, raised concerns about people who he believes will try to take advantage of the law. His major worry is that people will claim an illness that they don’t really have in hopes that a doctor will certify them to use cannabis anyway. Health conditions, he states, such as nausea and pain, are hard to prove and that doctors have to rely on the word of their patients. Ultimately, he feels lawmakers “…missed numerous opportunities to make the whole process safer for citizens.”
With that same concern in mind, it seems, the Senate passed House Bill 1400 on March 23, 2017. Placing a ban on smoking cannabis anywhere tobacco smoking isn’t allowed, lawmakers put this and other restrictions into effect. The only people allowed to smoke medical cannabis must be 21 years of age. Other restrictions include not smoking around anyone under 14 years old and not smoking near a woman who is known to be pregnant.
Lamenting the lack of more regulations, Jerry Cox was at least pacified that some were put into place. Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Arkansas Surgeon General, also opposed the law and supported the worries of Cox regarding safety. According to Dr. Bledsoe, THC levels in certain edible products are hard to determine. He also fears that with edibles, the packaging may appeal to children who would then be exposed to unknown amounts of THC. With mutual concerns, Cox wishes a blanket ban would’ve been put on smoking cannabis and using it in edibles.
Applications on the way
On Friday, June 30, 2017, those seeking to grow or supply cannabis can begin submitting their applications to the Medical Marijuana Commission. Those who want to become medical marijuana patients can submit their applications to the Health Department. Whether lawmakers or citizens opposed to the law like it or not, it’s expected that anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people will apply for medical cannabis during the application period that will only last a few short months. After September 18, 2017, the state will stop accepting them.
Certain criteria must be met in order for an individual to qualify. Just as in other states, the law requires a doctor’s certification. The doctor and patient must posses an established relationship. Based on what a doctor knows of a patient’s history, they can certify them to use medical cannabis. Patients then submit their applications with a $50 fee. If approved, they have to renew their certification yearly.
The list of qualifying conditions is relatively common. Including health issues like cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder, people with a range of conditions can seek a doctor’s approval.
Founder of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, Storm Nolan knows there are so many people waiting to legally use the medicine that will offer them relief. Having lost his mother to an opioid addiction, he knows the consequences first-hand of addiction to narcotic painkillers. She suffered from chronic pain. Nolan is hoping to gain permission to cultivate medical cannabis for future patients. According to him, it’s time for the people who need medical cannabis to get it.
Arkansas will have a chance to become America’s first truly Southern state with medical cannabis come this election.
The Arkansas secretary of state’s office announced today that 77,516 of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) initiative’s signatures collected qualified as valid signatures. Thus, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA), which legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries and allows for home growing, will appear on Arkansas’ ballot come November.
The AMCA would make medical marijuana available to those with chronic and severe illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, Chron’s disease, lupus, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. While the bill’s restrictive nature wouldn’t create a full-fledged medical marijuana industry, the AMCA would provide safe access to Arkansas’ patients with the most dire need for medicine.
A competing, more prohibitive measure (the AMMA) that does not allow home growing is expected to submit its signatures for state approval any day. Should that bill also make the ballot, state supporters are concerned the two competing measures will cause both to ultimately fail.
The AMCA constituency has asked the AMMA to drop its proposal so one bill could pass. Sadly, the AMMA appears intent on submitting its signatures and making the ballot–which will spell doom for Arkansas’ patients in need of safe access.
Still, should Arkansas’ voters approve the measure, Arkansas would become America’s 26th or 27th medical marijuana state, depending on your definition of Louisiana’s unrecognized medical marijuana program. However, that number could easily jump to 28 or 29 this fall as Florida and Missouri also have similar medical marijuana measures that voters will decide the fate of this fall.
A number of people, including local “Cannabis News and Information” radio host Robert Reed, came together at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock for a rally against cannabis prohibition.
Reed, who referred to the rally as a “why we need to end the prohibition of cannabis rally,” has been fighting to legalize marijuana in the Natural State for six years. Reed stated,
“We’re losing (Arkansas) in excess of $750 million dollars a year just on the industrial side.“
Aside from the medical benefits of cannabis, Reed is pushing for support of the plant on the industrial side of things. Rally attendees learned that 250,000 hemp-based products are manufactured every year, but the raw hemp being used is grown outside of the United States:
“As you’ll see one of the tables up there has products on it – 100% of those products are planted, processed and grown outside the United States. The only thing we can do is sell the finished products.”
Other groups such as “National Weedstock” and “Twenty Veterans a Day” made an appearance at the rally to support the cause.
Signatures were collected to petition for a medical marijuana to be on the 2016 state ballot.
photo credit: KATV