Two cannabis industry trade associations in Arkansas have merged to form a single organization.
The merger of Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association is effective immediately, according to a news release issued Tuesday (Dec. 11).
The merged group will be called ACIA and will be governed by a 12-member board made up of representatives from licensed cultivators, dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses.
The merger brings together “the expertise and leadership of the most actively-involved individuals and businesses within Arkansas’s cannabis industry,” according to the release. By joining forces, the groups will be stronger and more effective with legislative advocacy, public education and member recruitment.
“It is past time for factions within the cannabis industry to come together on behalf of the physicians and businesses working to make medical cannabis a reality in our state,” Robert deBin, president of the ACIA board of directors, said in a statement. “We must be united and inclusive as we go into 2019 with continued challenges. There are tens of thousands of patients who need access to this medicine to treat their medical conditions, and we must continue to raise awareness of the benefits of our industry to policymakers and the general public.”
As part of the merger agreement, members of each organization are now members of ACIA, with benefits that remain the same. Benefits include legislative and policy advocacy, cooperative advertising and marketing opportunities and special events and networking.
In addition to deBin, board members include Dan Roda of Little Rock, vice president; Brandon Thornton of Little Rock, secretary; Adam Hodge of North Little Rock, treasurer; Dr. Regina Thurman of Fayetteville; and Dr. Kyle Felling of Greenbrier. Both Roda and Thurman were previously members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association board. Additional board members will be named at a later date following the expected awarding of dispensary licenses.
“As two groups, we shared the same goals of patient engagement, doctor education and legislative action,” said Dr. Thurman, who had been AMMA’s chairwoman. “Aligning these interests under the umbrella of one organization and becoming a stronger voice for the industry and patients we serve just made sense. We are excited to be moving forward with a larger and more effective coalition for the 2019 legislative session and beyond.”
More than two years after Arkansas voters approved medical marijuana in November 2016, the product could finally be available next year.