Arkansas has a complex history regarding the legalization of cannabis. In 2016, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment was passed, establishing a legalized medical marijuana program overseen by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (AABCB). The AABCB's regulations cover various aspects, including owner residency requirements, qualifying medical conditions, business qualifications, and zoning issues.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is responsible for administering and regulating the issuance of licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The commission is mandated to issue between four and eight cultivation facility licenses and between 20 and 40 dispensary licenses. Additionally, individuals are prohibited from having an interest in more than one cultivation facility and dispensary.
Despite the program's initiation in 2016, the rollout of medical marijuana was gradual, with the first patient being served in May 2019. As of March 2022, the state has 38 operational dispensaries, and all eight cultivation licenses allowed by the amendment have been granted.
While cultivators are primarily responsible for marijuana production, dispensaries can also grow and possess up to 50 mature plants and up to 150 immature plants simultaneously. However, qualified medical patients are not permitted to grow or cultivate marijuana and can purchase up to 2.5 ounces from state-approved dispensaries every 14 days.
Apart from medical and industrial hemp use, Arkansas prohibits the sale, possession, or consumption of cannabis products. Moreover, Arkansas is among the “smoke a joint, lose your license” states, enforcing a six-month driver's license suspension for any drug offense.
Marijuana License Types in Arkansas
Arkansas is currently accepting applications for four distinct medical marijuana business licenses facilitated by the ADH, outlined as follows:
This license authorizes the acquisition, possession, manufacturing, processing, preparation, delivery, transfer, transportation, supply, and dispensing of medical marijuana to qualifying patients and caregivers. The issuance of no more than 40 dispensary licenses is permitted within the designated “8 dispensary zones.”
Application Fee: $7,500.00
Entities with this license are permitted to cultivate, prepare, manufacture, process, package, sell, and deliver usable marijuana to Arkansas state-licensed dispensaries.
Application Fee: $15,000.00
This license allows an entity to acquire, possess, manufacture, process, prepare, deliver, transport, and supply marijuana to a licensed dispensary or cultivation facility.
Application Fee: $5,000.00
Entities holding this license can acquire, possess, deliver, transfer, transport, or distribute marijuana to a licensed dispensary, cultivation facility, or processor.
Application Fee: $5,000.00
Currently, an open application process is in place for Processing or Transportation licenses, with no specified limit on the number of licenses that may be granted. However, due to Arkansas' restrictions on the number of Dispensary and Cultivation licenses, there is no ongoing application period for these particular licenses.
The landscape of medical marijuana in Arkansas reflects a carefully regulated and evolving industry. The state's four distinct business licenses—Dispensary, Cultivation, Processing, and Transportation—underscore the comprehensive approach taken by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) in overseeing the medicinal cannabis sector.
The ongoing acceptance of applications for Processing and Transportation licenses, without a set cap, signals an opportunity for businesses to contribute to the expanding medical marijuana ecosystem in Arkansas. This open-ended approach aligns with the dynamic nature of the industry, allowing for flexibility and adaptation to the evolving needs of patients and stakeholders. As the state continues to refine its policies and respond to the ever-changing landscape of medical cannabis, one thing remains clear—the commitment to fostering a responsible and beneficial medical marijuana program for the residents of Arkansas.