Demand for permission to use, grow and sell medical marijuana in Arkansas is low as the state reaches the halfway point for the application period. Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin told The Associated Press Friday morning that the agency had received no applications to grow and distribute medical marijuana.
“We are not concerned, as we understand the applications require detailed and specific information that will take time to complete,” Hardin said earlier in the week. “Applicants are likely performing their due diligence to provide quality applications.”
Hardin said officials anticipate applications will start arriving closer to the Sept. 18 deadline. In June, Bill Rector, a Little Rock realtor and president of Renaissance Properties Limited, teamed with Rick Henderson, owner of a Little Rock tree trimming company called Apple Tree Service, to request a permit from the Pine Bluff Planning and Development Commission for a Pine Bluff growing center under their company, Newsouth Agriculture, LLC.
The permit was approved. Attempts to reach Rector and his business partner before the press deadline were unsuccessful. The facility would be one of five such facilities allowed under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Board, which set the rules after Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment in November to legalize medical marijuana. The five facilities would operate as wholesale operations distributing to 32 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.
Newsouth submitted to the city a permit on review request to operate a cultivation, production and sales facility for medical marijuana at 2404 South University Avenue. Rector estimated in June that he and his partner would spend $1.5 million to renovate the property.
Rector assured the planning commission in June that the facility would meet strict policies for security mandated by the state, including perimeter fencing, lighting, surveillance cameras and 24-hour security. The marijuana would be grown in an indoor greenhouse, he said, and they plan to employ between 20 and 40 workers. They also plan to offer internships to UAPB chemistry and agriculture students.
“These are going to be good jobs, indoor jobs,” Rector said in June. “We'll hire everybody from agricultural workers to chemists. We're going to basically operate a laboratory.”
There are regulations that limit where greenhouses and distributors can operate. While setting up rules for licensing, legislators said growers must be at least 3,000 feet (900 meters) from churches, schools or daycares, while dispensaries must be 1,500 feet (450 meters) away. Those restrictions will make it difficult for some towns and small cities to have marijuana operations.
Cultivation facility and dispensary license applications will be scored and officials will award the permits based on merit. The department plans to award five cultivation licenses and 32 dispensary licenses. Despite the lack of submissions for licenses, there has been interest in using medical marijuana though that number is low. There have been 404 applications completed and approved from people seeking to use medical marijuana as of Tuesday, according to Department of Health spokeswoman Katie White.
Director of Health Communications Marisha DiCarlo told the AP that the agency had projected around 30,000 people would apply for medical marijuana cards.
“This number was based on population, types of qualifying conditions, and trends in other states,” DiCarlo said. “At this time, it is too early in the process to know if that number will be reached, since usable, legally obtained Arkansas marijuana is not yet available in the state.”
DiCarlo also said there are several documents applicants have to gather to complete their applications.
People who want to obtain an ID card must have a physician fill out a form certifying that they have a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. There are 18 qualifying conditions, including intractable pain, cancer, severe nausea, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The ID cards, which cost $50 and must be renewed yearly, will be issued about 30 days before medical marijuana is available for legal purchase in the state.