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Arkansas Health Department Prepares for Medical Marijuana Program Rollout

Around 30,000 Arkansans are expected to register for the MMJ program.

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This Monday, Arkansas officials enacted emergency rules to govern and regulate medical marijuana from seed to sale. Medical marijuana is not expected to be available in Arkansas until next year, but these rules allow the state's Department of Health, Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, and Medical Marijuana Commission to begin preparations for the full rollout of the program.

The Arkansas Department of Health is testing the online registry system for medical marijuana cards this week. In order to apply, patients must have written certification from their doctor that they suffer from one of the 17 qualifying medical conditions. Patients should be able to apply for their cards by the end of June, but will not actually receive their cards until 30 days before cannabis is ready to be sold, which is expected to happen in early 2018.

"We want to make sure the process is as seamless as possible for the public," ADH chief general counsel Robert Brech said. Around 30,000 Arkansans are expected to sign up to receive MMJ cards. The cards are only good for one year, and Brech notes that “the registration card will not protect anyone unless marijuana is bought in Arkansas through a dispensary.”

The health department will also be responsible for regulating the labeling and testing standards for cultivation and sale of medical cannabis products. "We want to make sure that the products are as safe as possible," Brech said. "We'll continually look at the testing standards and modify them as needed."