National medical marijuana expert: Arkansas ‘very thoughtful’ in setting up process

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 520 views 

Benefitting from other states’ experiences, at least one national expert is complimentary of Arkansas’ effort to build an oversight system to create a medical marijuana industry in the Natural State.

Brian Vicente, who led Colorado’s marijuana initiative and has been a leader on the subject at the national level, appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics in an exclusive interview. Vicente is working with Arkansas Medicinal Source, a joint venture among several Arkansas business leaders and medical professionals with experience in the fields of real estate development, construction, horticulture, transportation and logistics.

“Arkansas, I think, has been very thoughtful in the process of how they set this up,” he said. “They basically have two different state agencies that are overseeing both patients as well as creating strict controls over the businesses that will operate with them. And I think they’ve been really keeping an eye on the timeline making sure that the voters who passed this, the will of them is being enforced and that patients will be getting medicine soon.”

Monday, September 18, is the deadline for applying for permits to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana in Arkansas. Vicente, an attorney, was in town to work with clients on last-minute adjustments to those applications.

“I do think there’s a lot of national interest in helping people move forward in Arkansas and get these businesses established. I know there’s a lot of really successful Arkansas medical professionals and business people looking at this as not only an opportunity to make money but also a way to help patients. So I think there will be a wide spectrum of folks coming at this,” he said of the caliber of applicants he expects will try to get permits. “We need to keep in mind what really matters and that’s getting patients the medicine they need and making sure that medicine is appropriate in terms of dosage and things of that nature.”

Arkansas voters approved by a 53-47% margin a 2016 ballot measure to allow for medical cannabis use. Since passage, lawmakers have been developing state statutes and establishing a regulatory framework to monitor the new silo of medicine and associated commerce.

Vicente said that while Arkansas’ medical marijuana industry ramps up, more mature markets in states that passed measures earlier are coping with developing issues, such as banking obstacles. He expects Arkansas to benefit from other state policies. He’s also keeping an eye on how federal enforcement of marijuana usage – which still remains illegal – may impact the recreational and medicinal cannabis industry.

“It’s interesting. On the campaign trail, President Trump stated that he supported the rights of medical marijuana and he thought it was a good thing. Then he got into office and appointed Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General and Jeff Sessions has a long history of being, essentially, a drug war proponent. Thus far, the signals from the administration have been they’re going to leave states like Arkansas alone, let them fulfill their state laws around medical marijuana, and we kind of just have to wait and see how that dynamic plays out,” Vicente said.

Watch his full interview in the video below.

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