Medical marijuana should hit Arkansas shelves for the first time next month, industry officials said, but they’re less sure about how widespread the drug’s availability will be.
State regulators this week completed final inspections at two more growing facilities, meaning they are cleared to begin growing marijuana. The first of five cultivators was cleared to begin growing plants in January.
The first of the state’s 32 dispensaries are expected to begin opening next month, and one seller has already requested an Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division inspection.
What’s less clear is how much product will be available and how many retailers will be open in April.
Alex Gray, an attorney for the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, expects a handful of dispensaries — fewer than 10 — to open next month, but some patients may have hourslong drives to reach a dispensary.
“I anticipate it will be possible for patients to obtain their medicine by mid-April,” Gray said. “However, there is no guarantee that it will be convenient. You could have certain zones where there are no dispensaries up and running.”
The medical-marijuana program’s debut next month would mark the end of legal and regulatory delays that have slowed the program’s implementation since Arkansans voted in 2016 to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.
Amendment 98 to the constitution made Arkansas one of 33 states where medical cannabis is legal. The amendment permits patients and eligible caregivers to purchase and possess small quantities of the drug if a patient is certified by a physician to suffer from one of 18 qualifying conditions.
As of March 7, the state Health Department had approved 7,726 of the registry ID cards required to buy cannabis in Arkansas.
Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department