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The State of Medical Marijuana in Arkansas
2020 Grade: B-
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Arkansas has issued licenses to 32 medical cannabis dispensaries, of which 22 have opened their doors to patients.8 2020 also saw the state issue the eighth and final cultivation license authorized by the 2016 constitutional amendment. The program has a limited list of qualifying conditions, and while patients in Arkansas have the ability to submit a petition to the Medical Marijuana Administration asking for an expansion of qualifying conditions, none have been added at this time. Arkansas lawmakers did make a number of improvements to maintain patient access during the coronavirus pandemic, including authorizing delivery from licensed storefronts, permitting telehealth visits between physicians and patients for eligibility and recommendations and removing annual program eligibility renewals. As state lawmakers return for the 2021 legislative session ASA encourages consideration of legislation to further expand the number of licensed medical retailers and reduce costs to patients either through the creation of a collective model or specific efforts to drive down costs to commercial cannabis businesses that are being passed on to patients.
In November of 2016, Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment (Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment - AMMA) that provided for the creation of a medical cannabis program. In the 12 months that followed, the Arkansas Department of Health worked diligently to create rules and regulations implementing the voter-approved program. Arkansas still has areas for improvement, such as authorizing patient home cultivation, but The Natural State showed significant program improvements in just its first year. Following the passage of the constitutional amendment, the Arkansas legislature approved 16 bills that made technical and nuanced changes to the program that voters passed. In May of 2017, Arkansas implemented Rules and Regulations for the Registration, Testing and Labeling of Cannabis, which greatly strengthened their program. Arkansas also implemented rules governing the oversight of medical cannabis cultivation facilities and dispensaries.
Some surveyed patients are relieved that additional dispensaries opened in Arkansas and that they now have more access to medical cannabis than before. Other surveyed patients report that they would like to access a compassionate use program in Arkansas because they cannot afford medical cannabis with the heavy taxes placed on cannabis products.