Will Arkansas’s medical marijuana program finally go into effect this year?

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Though Arkansas voters passed Amendment 98 in 2016, which legalized medical cannabis in the state, Arkansas’s health department still hasn’t issued any official medical cannabis cards to struggling residents. Due to various legislative and regulatory delays, the state offered qualifying patients the option to attain a temporary medical cannabis license to use in Oklahoma.

 

Why Oklahoma though? It turns out that Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program is moving at a much faster pace as compared to Arkansas’s, and they’re willing to kindly help the neighboring state out. So what’s the likelihood of Arkansas’s medical cannabis program operating this year, and will it actually make a difference?

Progress or Retrogression?

Drug overdoses fit under the top ten leading causes of death in Arkansas, which has motivated numerous residents to seek out alternative medicines like cannabis and/or Cannabidiol (CBD). As of December 28th, roughly 6,700 Arkansans were approved to purchase medical cannabis in Oklahoma. But according to Meg Mirivel, a state agency spokeswoman, it’s probable Arkansas won’t issue any official medical cannabis cards until February. This is because the state wants to ensure when cards are issued, residents can use them right away as opposed to receiving them but being unable to use them.

Law enforcement might worry about Arkansas patients attempting to purchase medical cannabis elsewhere to bypass various state delays. Fortunately, though, Oklahoma stepped up to help struggling Arkansans by offering them temporary medical cannabis licenses. Currently, Oklahoma offers temporary medical cannabis licenses that are valid for thirty days, but they can be renewed. The temporray cards permit individuals with medical cannabis cards from other states to legally purchase, consume, and cultivate cannabis in Oklahoma.

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Unfortunately, though, qualifying Arkansas medical cannabis patients cannot attain a temporary out-of-state card to purchase, consume, and grow cannabis in Oklahoma if they don’t have their own state-licensed medical card with them. It’s safe to say this is a lose-lose situation for already approved Arkansas medical cannabis patients, as they haven’t received those all-important cards. Instead all Arkansas qualifying medical cannabis patients have received are state approval letters.

Next Steps 

In the meantime, what can Arkansas medical cannabis patients do to get the medicine they need? They can take a risk by purchasing medical cannabis products from other U.S. states and transporting it across state lines back home to Arkansas. We do not recommend that option as those caught will face federal consequences. Another option is to buy CBD products online, which are medically and therapeutically beneficial.

Then, there’s always the option to get involved with Arkansas cannabis advocacy groups by using your voice to create effective change for medical cannabis patients. This can be in the form of creating petitions, participating in peaceful protests, attending community meetings or conferences and standing up for what’s right.

What Will Arkansas’s Program Arrive?

When comparing Arkansas and Oklahoma’s medical cannabis programs, Oklahoma is way ahead. Nonetheless, Arkansas is slowly making changes, even though many of them are quite restrictive. For starters, there can be no more than 32 dispensaries in the state, , according to Amendment 98, and Arkansas has yet to grant licenses to state dispensaries. The state commission is still deciding on which 32 locations will be able to legally sell medical cannabis. In addition, Arkansas has only granted five cultivation licenses, but no cultivators have started the growing process yet.

Recently, The Arkansas Department of Health expressed they’ll start issuing certifications to already approved medical cannabis patients next month. By doing this, existing medical cannabis patients won’t have to apply for temporary medical licenses in other states like Oklahoma. On a positive note, two Arkansas business that received state-approved cultivation licenses expect their first harvest in April. They also expect medical cannabis products to be available in dispensaries that same month.

Overall, Amendment 98 is much more restrictive than that of many U.S. states including Oklahoma. Although Arkansas is still working out different kinks, they at least have the medical cannabis ball rolling.

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