Arkansas Cannabis Business Licenses
WHAT IS ARKANSAS'S CURRENT CANNABIS MARKET STATUS?
Despite having a medical cannabis program, Arkansas still has some of the harshest cannabis laws in the United States with repeat offenders’ possession over an ounce is punishable up to six years in prison. With the approved number of Medical Marijuana ID Cards reaching nearly 70,000 as of July 2020, the medical cannabis program has seen significant growth in the past couple of years. Arkansas had a pair of unsuccessful adult-use ballot measures in the 2020 legislative session but is still an interesting cannabis market with over $63 million in sales nearly a year after dispensaries opened.
WHAT ARE ARKANSAS'S CANNABIS LAWS?
On November 8, 2016, Arkansas voters approved Amendment 98, also known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. Patients who possess a physician’s recommendation may legally possess and obtain medical cannabis provided by state-licensed dispensaries but may not cultivate their own home stash. Patients under the age of 21 are not permitted to consume cannabis in raw flower form. Inhaling raw cannabis flower is also explicitly not permitted in the presence of a pregnant woman or a child age 14 or under. Dispensaries may not provide cannabis-infused edibles or beverages with more than 10mg of active ingredient THC. The law originally allows for 32 dispensary licenses, 5 cultivation licenses, and has allowed processing, transportation and distribution activities to occur.
WHAT IS ARKANSAS'S CANNABIS LICENSING TIMELINE & CANNABIS APPLICATION PROCESS?
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission was created by the passage of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. The Commission is tasked with administering and regulating the issuance of licenses to operate medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities, and will work with the support of Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control to implement and enforce the requirements of the amendment. On December 7, 2016, the inaugural members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Counsel were announced. The members are:
Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D. - Chairwoman (Appointed by Governor Hutchinson)
Justin Smith, RN (Appointed by Senator Dismang)
Capt. Keven Russell (Appointed by Senator Dismang) (2 Year Term)
J.P.Mobley (Appointed by Representative Shephard) (2 Year Term)
Travis W. Story, Esq. (Appointed by Representative Gillam)
The application due date has passed as of September 2017 and there is not have a clear timeline for adult-use licensing or expanded medical licensing.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS IN ARKANSAS?
As early as 2006, Eureka Springs residents of Arkansas voted to make cannabis law enforcement the lowest police priority. Fayetteville, Arkansas residents approved a similar initiative in 2008, making the state an early player in the national legalization conversation.
In 2012, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (a failed cannabis measure) was put up for vote on the statewide ballot. The act would have allowed non-profit organizations, or collectives, to grow and sell medical cannabis and additionally supply patients who live over five miles from a legal dispensary to cultivate a small number of plants on their own property. Unfortunately, the measure was defeated in a narrow vote and the issue was not brought back up for another couple of years.
In November 2016, 53% of Arkansas voters approved Amendment 98 (the state’s successful medical marijuana initiative) to legalize the medical use of cannabis. It allows patients who obtain a doctor's recommendation to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for the treatment of any of 15 conditions. The amendment also requires that between 20 and 40 cannabis dispensaries and 4 to 8 cultivators be licensed by the state. There was no allowance made for patients to cultivate at home.
In May 2019, licensed sales began when the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The state is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2020 with the patient count continually rising even throughout COVID.
DOES ARKANSAS HAVE A HEMP PROGRAM?
ARE YOU PREPARING FOR THE ARKANSAS CANNABIS MARKET?
It is never too early to start developing your cannabis business plan. Point7 is pleased to offer products and service packages to operators at all stages of the cannabis business life cycle—whether you are just getting started, or a seasoned operator thinking about expansion. Contact a member of our team today to get more information about your next best move.