Medical marijuana sales in Arkansas have hit a significant milestone a little more than a year after the first dispensaries in the state began serving customers.
Local news outlets in the Natural State reported that medical cannabis sales in Arkansas have officially eclipsed $200 million, with patients purchasing more than 15 tons of product.
The exact figures, according to local television stations KATV and 5NEWS: $200.7 million and 30,648 pounds of medical marijuana.
MMJ in AR
Voters in Arkansas approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, but the first dispensary didn’t open until May of 2019. The law’s rollout faced impediments from state lawmakers and jurists in the nearly three years before the voters approved it at the ballot box and patients were able to be served, and has continued to face resistance.
Lawmakers passed a measure last year, a month before sales began, significantly restricting the advertising of medical marijuana products. And in February, a county judge in Arkansas issued a freeze on the state’s ability to issue more licenses for dispensaries.
At the time of that ruling, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that “nearly half of Arkansas’ 32 dispensaries remain inoperable a year after the permits were issued.”
According to 5NEWS, there are now 31 dispensaries serving patients throughout the state. KATV reported that “Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs has sold the most marijuana of the state’s 31 dispensaries,” totaling a little more than 3,400 pounds of cannabis, while “Releaf Center in Bentonville has sold the second-most,” clocking in at 3,343 pounds.
But despite those hurdles and setbacks, medical marijuana sales have hummed right along in Arkansas. The latest figures also suggest that sales have accelerated this year, perhaps due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, almost a year after the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported that medical marijuana sales exceeded $63 million in the first 11 months of operation, amounting to a total of 10,050 pounds worth of cannabis.
And as was the case in other states and markets where marijuana (be it medical or recreational) is legal, there were early signs in the pandemic that sales might see a boost as a result of stay-at-home orders. March 20, days into lockdown orders throughout the country, represented the largest single day of sales in Arkansas dispensaries, with patients spending $565,000 on 92 pounds worth of weed.
Despite a clear embrace of medical cannabis by the state’s constituents, Arkansas’ other marijuana laws remain quite draconian. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Arkansas is home to “some of the harshest marijuana laws in the nation.” Possession of fewer than four ounces of pot can amount to “a misdemeanor carrying up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500,” according to MPP, while possession of “an ounce of marijuana or more by those who have twice been convicted of possession is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.”