40% of first-year medical marijuana sales occurred after March 1

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,472 views 

Arkansas’ medical marijuana sales have increased significantly since March 1 and there is a consensus as to why: COVID-19.

The state of Arkansas reported Tuesday (May 12) that overall sales of medical cannabis recently surpassed $75 million and 12,000 pounds since the first dispensary opened a year ago in May 2019.

Roughly 40% of overall sales have occurred since March 1, 2020. Over the past two-and-a-half months, medical marijuana dispensaries have sold $29.92 million of products.

“To put this in perspective, it’s been one year since the first dispensary opened in May 2019 and 40% of total sales for the year have taken place since March 1,” said Scott Hardin, Director of Communications at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees sales data and tax collections.

“We anticipate the significant increase in sales over the last two months is directly related to COVID-19. When the CDC recommended citizens maintain at least a two week supply of prescription medication, it looks like medical marijuana patients in Arkansas took action on that guidance beginning in mid-March,” Hardin said. “There was initially an assumption it may be a one-time spike but that has not been the case. Sales have remained extremely strong since that time.”

Hardin said several dispensaries have reported more patients are consistently making the maximum purchase, which is 2.5 ounces every 14 days.

“Considering the price averages just below $400 an ounce, the maximum purchase may be more than $1,000 every two weeks,” Hardin said.

There are currently 22 operational dispensaries across the state. Another 11 dispensaries are slated to open over the next several months and Hardin said projections are for sales to “exceed $100 million.”

Aaron Crawley, owner and CFO of The Source, a medical marijuana dispensary in Bentonville, said the spike is definitely related to the coronavirus outbreak.

“There is no question that we’ve seen a very significant spike in business since the advent of COVID-19 in Arkansas,” he said.

“Due to high demand and adherence to social distancing requirements, we’ve switched exclusively to online ordering and allow a maximum of three individuals in the lobby at a time. Higher demand inevitably leads to longer wait times so we often have more than three people coming to pick up their orders at once. To accommodate this high volume of guests safely, we have them check-in with their name and wait in their cars until their order is ready. Even so, the majority of our guests are simply grateful that we’re open,” said Crawley.

Kattie Hansen, CEO of Native Green Wellness in Hensley, said she’s heard from patients coping with COVID-19.

“The pandemic that we are living through causes those without stress disorders to panic and have increased anxiety, so I can’t even imagine what the added stress and anxiety does to our patients,” she said.

“The increase in sales throughout our state is in direct relation to people trying to cope, trying to get off of opiates and alcohol and make it through this uncertain time the best that they can. We must change our mentality and way of life where we celebrate the wine-drinking mom or dad and judge those that are using a safer alternative method. We at Native educate on a daily basis about the medicinal properties to our patients and are proud to serve the state and help those in need and have utilized our compassionate care program to do so,” Hansen added.

Editor’s note: KATV’s senior political reporter Marine Glisovic contributed to this report.