Jan 24, 2024 - News

Group proposes easing access to medical marijuana in Arkansas after record sales

Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios
Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios

Arkansas' marijuana business is lush with green.

Driving the news: On the heels of a record year for state medical marijuana sales — $283 million — a group is seeking to get a constitutional amendment on the Arkansas ballot that would relax state laws.

Quick take: The proposed ballot measure drafted by Arkansans for Patient Access would update state law on several key points:

  • Allowing patients and caregivers to grow up to seven mature and seven younger marijuana plants.
  • Expanding who can certify patients to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
  • Permitting providers to qualify patients based on any medical need rather than the state's 18 conditions.
  • Allowing assessments through telemedicine.
  • Recognizing patient cards from other states or allowing nonresidents to obtain Arkansas cards.
  • Increasing the expiration date for new cards from one to three years.

The proposed amendment also effectively creates a trigger that would allow any adult to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in Arkansas if it becomes legal under federal law.

Flashback: Arkansas voters rejected a ballot measure for recreational marijuana in 2022. State of play: Tax revenue from medical marijuana was $31 million in 2023 — down from $32 million in 2022 — and topped $120 million since the industry began in mid-2019.

  • 6.5% of sales to cardholders and dispensaries goes to the state's general tax revenue — used to pay for state government.
  • 4% of all sales to cardholders previously went to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences but now goes to help fund free meals for public school students in need.
Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios
Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios

By the numbers: There are 38 dispensaries across the state, along with eight cultivators and nine licensed processors.

  • The state's 97,000 medical cardholders bought 62,227 pounds in 2023, up 23% from 50,605 in 2022.
  • The four dispensaries in NWA accounted for 16.5% of statewide marijuana sales in 2023.
  • NWA's sales were up 5.5% last year.

Meanwhile, a dispensary opened earlier this month in Pineville, Missouri, about a half-mile from the Arkansas-Missouri state line. Missouri allows recreational use by anyone over 21.

  • It will likely take a few months to see if the new facility siphons any business from Benton County's two dispensaries.

What's next: Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is expected to provide feedback on the proposed amendment language on Monday, Axios learned by email from Stephen Lancaster, a lawyer representing Arkansans for Patients.

Go deeper: Dogs on doobie stats soar with pot legalization

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