Despite strong opposition from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and most of the state’s GOP Congress, the voter-passed Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 continues its slow and steady advancement and the program is on target to begin sometime early next year. Here is the latest on Arkansas’ medical marijuana program.
Arkansas, the first state in America’s Bible Belt to vote for medical marijuana, will begin accepting applications from patients, growers and distributors this week.
On Friday, Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Commission will begin accepting applications from growers who seek to provide medical marijuana for patients in the state. The law, which passed in November with 53 percent of the vote, does not allow for citizens to grow their own cannabis, so this is a key step for patients.
Also on Friday, citizens seeking medicinal marijuana as a treatment will be able to begin requesting identification cards. According to a news release from the Arkansa Department of Health:
These cards will allow patients or caregivers to purchase medical marijuana at a licensed dispensary. Currently, there are no licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas. 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.
The applications require 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; only a written certification on the ADH forms can be submitted for consideration.
According to estimates from state officials, there could be up t0 40,000 patients who will apply for medical marijuana cards. The cost to patients for a card is $50 a year. If the estimates are correct, the state will have $2 million in card fees before collecting any revenue from taxes.
Robert Brech, the state Health Department’s chief lawyer, estimated earlier this month that running Arkansas’ medical marijuana program will cost about $1.5 million in the next year.
The law allows for the following qualifying conditions:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Hepatitis C
- Positive Status for HIV and/or AIDS
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chronic or debilitating disease that produces:
- Wasting Syndrome or cachexia
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Intractable pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms
The Arkansas Department of Health provides a FAQ on the state’s medical marijuana program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.