Cannabis ‘celebration’ events set, leaders hope to form ‘working relationships’

by Wesley Brown ( 354 views 

Two statewide trade groups that have emerged to actively promote medical marijuana use in Arkansas are planning special events to celebrate the hallmark starting point of the state’s newest industry.

The deadline for filing applications for cultivation centers and dispensaries was Monday (Sept. 18). The Medical Marijuana Commission began accepting bids in early May for five operators to up to eight marijuana growing facilities and another 32 dispensary applicants to operate up to 40 retail locations in eight quadrants of the state. There were 200 dispensary applications and 100 proposals for the state’s first legalized greeneries to grow marijuana for use in cannabis-related products submitted to the Commission.

The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association has scheduled a mixer on Sept. 21 for any and every one associated with the fledgling industry to celebrate the milestone in Arkansas’ history.

“Our ‘celebration’ mixer is the first opportunity for applicants to get together and to start talking about how to best implement our plans for bringing medical cannabis to Arkansas patients, now that the hyper-competitive time has passed,” said ACIA President Storm Nolan. “It’s also a great opportunity to just socialize and make friends among those who do wish to be in the industry. Prospective dispensary owners and prospective cultivation facility owners will need to join together in the approaching months and form working relationships that will be critical once licenses are awarded.”

On the day before, the recently-formed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association will host a half-day symposium on cannabis industry and regulatory issues featuring a presentation by talk show host and medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams. Williams, who has multiple sclerosis, recently joined the AMMA board and has been outspoken in support of medical marijuana as a treatment option for a variety of chronic illness symptoms. He is also the founder of medical cannabis company Lenitiv Scientific, which has pushed for legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S. for nearly two decades. In 2012, he visited Arkansas to support the ballot measure that year.

“Five years ago, I was in Little Rock on the steps of the State Capitol helping to raise up the voices of the many seriously ill Arkansans who were begging for some compassion. I’ll never forget them, so it’s truly an honor for me to join the (AMMA) board as your program begins its implementation,” Williams said in a statement. “I believe a well-regulated, patient-focused medical marijuana program in Arkansas will lead to conversations in state capitols throughout the South.”

To support the state’s cannabis industry, the Arkansas Department of Health began accepting applications for medical marijuana registry identification cards on July 1. As of Sept. 16, ADH spokeswoman Katie White told Talk Business & Politics there have been 1,182 completed and approved applications since state health officials began receiving those submissions.

Under the two dozen bills approved by the Arkansas General Assembly promulgating rules for medical marijuana use in the 2017 session, the Health Department, the Medical Marijuana Commission, DFA and the Arkansas Beverage will each share separate roles in regulating different parts of the industry. Two bills to ban medical marijuana edibles and smoking in certain places were nixed during the legislation session.

State policymakers said recently that some of those rules are still being fleshed out, but the first sale of doctor-approved and prescribed medical pot and cannabis derivatives are expected by early 2018. Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment during the November election to allow medical patients in Arkansas to purchased pot by prescription. Two bills to let those patients smoke it or buy it in edible form failed in close votes on the Senate floor and died when the legislature adjourned in early May.