The Arkansas Department of Health will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana registry identification cards on June 30, moving the state one step closer to allowing Arkansas citizens to obtain pot by prescription for certain medical conditions.
Earlier Monday, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission published the requirements for submitting bids for up to five operators to grow and cultivate medical marijuana under the constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in the November 2016 election. Those applications will be accepted June 30 with the final deadline being Sept. 18. State policymakers have said they expect the first sale of medical marijuana in Arkansas to take place in early 2018.
Storm Nolan, spokesman for the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) trade group, said Thursday “there is a sense of relief ”now that applications for cultivation facilities and patient IDs are finalized and rules are in place for marijuana testing and labeling and licensing of the industry.
Earlier this year, the Commission published rules and regulations governing the oversight of cultivation facilities and dispensaries by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. The rules reflect the legislature’s concerns about edible marijuana products that may appeal to children. Specifically, the rules ban the production of marijuana products that are shaped like animals, vehicles, persons, or characters, as well as marijuana products that “closely resemble” familiar food and drink items like candy.
“Now everyone knows the rules of the road, they can go about working on their applications,” said Nolan, a Fort Smith-based real estate developer who said earlier this year that he expects to file an application for a marijuana cultivation facility.
According to the Health Department, the ID cards will allow patients or caregivers to purchase medical marijuana at a licensed dispensary. Cards will be issued to qualifying patients and caregivers approximately 30 days before medical marijuana is available for legal purchase in the state, which is likely to be early next year, Health Department officials said.
The application process also includes a $50 fee, a copy of a valid Arkansas driver’s license or other official Arkansas state-issued identification, and an application form. The $50 fee is non-refundable. The medical marijuana card will include the photo of the qualifying patient or caregiver and must be submitted directly to ADH by the patient or caregiver. Applications through a third party are not considered legitimate and will not be accepted, officials said.
State Health officials said since the cards must be renewed annually, waiting until the medical marijuana products are available for legal purchase would ensure that the patient can use the card the maximum amount of time before it has to be renewed. Cards may be subject to a shorter renewal time if specified by the patient’s doctor, but the $50 application fee must be paid every time a card is renewed.
“Even though ADH is accepting applications, possession of marijuana is still illegal in the state unless purchased in licensed dispensaries by cardholders,” ADH officials warned.
A link to the online application system will be available on ADH’s website.
Health Department officials are encouraging consumers to use the online system, but paper forms can be requested by contacting the department. The application process will include a written certification from a doctor that the patient has a qualifying condition on an official ADH form. Letters from doctors will not be accepted, officials said. The Physician Certification forms will be available on Friday, June 23.
Under Act 593 passed by the lawmakers during the recent legislative session, state regulations allow for 2.5 ounces of marijuana by those who secure a permit from a physician or caretaker through the Department of Health. People who have one of 12 qualifying medical conditions can get a prescription from a physician, including Alzheimer’s, ALS, arthritis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s and ulcerative colitis.
Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series of stories on implementation of medical marijuana in Arkansas. The stories are scheduled to be published prior to June 30.