Last November, Arkansas became the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical cannabis. Beginning June 30, the Arkansas state Medical Marijuana Commission will accept applications to cultivate or supply cannabis. The Arkansas Health Department will accept applications for medical cannabis cards. The application period runs through Sept 18.
Eighteen medical conditions will be recognized including intractable pain, cancer, glaucoma, a positive HIV/AIDS status, hepatitis C, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe nausea. According to estimates from state officials, 20,000-40,000 people are expected to apply for the program. Patients pay $50 to apply and permits must be renewed each year. In order to qualify, potential patients must get written certification from a physician that has reviewed the patient’s medical history. In Arkansas, patients must also establish a bona fide physician-patient relationship.
Cultivators must grow at least 3,000 feet from churches, schools or daycare facilities. Dispensaries must be 1,500 feet away. The extended limits, unfortunately, will make it difficult for anyone to find a usable spot in smaller cities.
The legislation was praised by members of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, but received little fanfare from others. The bill was opposed by The Family Council and Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe. Most opponents worry about packaging that could be attractive to children. “Edibles concern me more than the smoking aspect,” Bledsoe told the Senate legislative committee. “It’s been very difficult to determine the THC levels in some of these products.” The Family Council admitted that although Arkansas missed opportunities to place more restrictions on access to medical cannabis, the state had done a good job setting up the regulations.
Smoking medical cannabis in Arkansas is banned anywhere that smoking tobacco is prohibited. Those under 21 are banned from smoking medical cannabis and anyone is prohibited from smoking around anyone under the age of 14 or in the presence of a pregnant woman.