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Arkansas voters approved legislation for medical marijuana in 2016, but cannabis cultivation and sale has not yet reached patients. Legal and regulatory hurdles delayed the state’s medical marijuana industry for a full three years, with the first dispensary and cultivation licenses sent out in January 2019.
All of these dispensaries still have to undergo a final inspection before opening their doors. The earliest that medical marijuana patients will be able to access cannabis products in Arkansas is April 2019. Despite these setbacks, the Arkansas medical marijuana industry remains attractive to investors and entrepreneurs in the greater cannabis community.
Yes. Under Arkansas law, the state must license every cannabis dispensary and cultivation business. The state’s constitutional amendment allowing for medical marijuana specifies a maximum of 32 dispensaries, and Arkansas formally awarded all 32 licenses in January 2019.
The Arkansas Department of Health is responsible for approving cannabis licenses for dispensaries, cultivators, and patients. It is a cabinet-level agency overseen by the State Board of Health under the direction of the state’s governor.
To obtain a cannabis license, you must apply during the state’s open enrollment period for new dispensary licenses. The first enrollment period ended in 2016, but dispensaries have not yet opened throughout the state. For practical purposes, the only way to obtain a cannabis dispensary license in Arkansas right now is to acquire one of the 32 organizations that have already earned one.
Medical cannabis retailers in Arkansas must provide proof of assets or a surety bond amounting to $1 million and prove they have at least $500,000 in liquid assets. Arkansas cannabis dispensaries must be 60% owned by Arkansas residents with at least seven consecutive years residing in the state. Dispensaries must apply for a license specifically for one of the state’s eight regions.
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas pay a single $15,000 licensing fee and then post a $100,000 performance bond. If the application is not approved, the state pays half of the licensing fee back to the unsuccessful applicant.
Yes. Medical marijuana dispensaries that cultivate their own marijuana must pay a $32,500 annual fee to renew their license. Dispensaries that do not cultivate cannabis pay a smaller annual fee of $10,000.
There is no recreational cannabis dispensary license in Arkansas. Medical marijuana dispensaries come in two forms: one for dispensaries that cultivate their own marijuana products and one for those that do not. Dispensaries that don’t cultivate their own marijuana are significantly easier to open from a regulatory point of view.
Arkansas originally stated that it would issue its medical marijuana dispensary licenses immediately after applicants post a $500,000 performance bond. In practice, a series of legal processes and regulatory difficulties delayed licensing for three years.
Arkansas medical marijuana dispensaries are likely to be in an advantageous position to open recreational dispensaries when the state puts the appropriate laws into practice. Out-of-state dispensary owners can apply for Arkansas licenses during enrollment only if the company in question is 60% owned by Arkansas residents.
What local (county-level) permissions will I need to operate?
Dispensary locations must be 1,500 feet away from schools, churches, and daycare centers. Cultivation facilities and dispensaries that cultivate marijuana must be 3,000 feet away from these institutions.
There is no legislation preventing organizations from hosting cannabis-themed events in Arkansas. Because recreational cannabis remains illegal, cannabis events must remain firmly fixated on the medical aspect of cannabis cultivation and use.
There is no need to obtain a separate premises license for cannabis events. However, private venue owners are within their legal rights to refuse cannabis event organizers’ requests to host events on their premises.
Yes. Arkansas legislation does not forbid cannabis dispensaries and cultivators from hosting events.
Arkansas requires dispensaries to track and report cannabis product sales. Cannabis dispensaries must be able to report the full logistics of all of their products, from seed to sale, and immediately report stolen or lost products to state authorities.
Arkansas requires dispensary and cultivation facility owners to implement solutions for 24-hour security monitoring. There must be security cameras, alarms, and access control solutions protecting cannabis products from being diverted to the black market at all times. Even small amounts of marijuana must be stored in a safe or steel cabinet that is either more than 750 pounds in weight or bolted to the floor.
Yes. As long as dispensaries follow the same security regulations that cultivators have to follow, they can package and label cannabis products on-premises. Packaging must be sealed, traceable, food-compliant, and child-proof.
No. One of the requirements for the first round of cannabis dispensary owners in Arkansas was that they could not hold existing licenses from the Arkansas Department of Health or the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
Yes. Cannabis dispensaries can apply to become cultivators and vertically integrate aspects of their business. Doing so requires paying larger fees, applying for a special license type, and following both sets of regulations – those that apply to dispensaries and those that apply to cultivators.
No. Dispensaries that give away product samples are likely to have their licenses suspended or revoked. The Arkansas Department of Health can also impose a monetary fine of up to $5,000.
Cannabis dispensaries in Arkansas may only operate between the hours of 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM. Dispensaries may only transport marijuana between the hours of 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM and deliver cannabis products between 9:00 AM and 7:00 PM.
Yes. However, public-facing displays may not market to recreational users or children and must contain the following four statements:
“Marijuana is for use by qualified patients only. Keep out of reach of children.”
“Marijuana use during pregnancy or breastfeeding poses potential harms.”
“Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of marijuana.”
“Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Patients above the age of 18 can purchase cannabis products from Arkansas cannabis dispensaries. Minors who qualify for medical marijuana must rely on a certified caregiver to conduct in-store transactions on their behalf.
Seed-to-sale reporting is a batch number-based system for keeping track of every cannabis product on the market. Cultivators and dispensaries have to report sales and losses to the Alcohol Beverage Control Division using an approved inventory tracking system.