Arkansas’ Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin announced last week that the state hasn't received a single application from a business seeking to grow or distribute medical marijuana. The final deadline for these applications, September 18th, is fast approaching, but Hardin believes that he will see applications begin to arrive as the deadline approaches.
“We are not concerned, as we understand the applications require detailed and specific information that will take time to complete,” Hardin said. “Applicants are likely performing their due diligence to provide quality applications.” Cultivator and dispensary license applications will be scored, and licenses will be awarded based on merit. The finance department will award five cultivation licenses and 32 dispensary licenses.
Demand for medical marijuana in the state is also off to a slow start, with only 404 applications medical marijuana patients having been received to date. The state Health Department expected around 30,000 applicants. “This number was based on population, types of qualifying conditions, and trends in other states,” Director of Health Communications Marisha 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.”
Last week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson raised concerns over reports that State Medical Board Chairman Dr. Steven Cathey had joined the board of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA), a new cannabis advocacy group. “I was not aware of this decision, and I don’t think someone on the Medical Board should be associated with a medical marijuana advocacy group,” Hutchinson said.
Dr. Cathey said that these reports were the result of miscommunication between himself, the AMMA, and the State Medical Board. He said that he was indeed approached by the AMMA to serve as a consultant, but eventually decided to decline the position.
“I was fearful there would be a conflict of interest and in my opinion even a perception of conflict of interest would be inappropriate – so I declined to participate,” Cathey said. “That was pretty much the bottom line.”