Lower prices, higher supply of medical marijuana in Oklahoma pulls patients across the border for products.
Sharing a border with another state with medical marijuana has affected sales in Arkansas.
Arkansas and Oklahoma have both legalized use of medical cannabis in recent years, but between the two states, the laws are slightly different. Oklahoma has over 200,000 medical marijuana patients while Arkansas sits lower with only a little over 40,000 as of this week.
To become a medical marijuana cardholder, patients must have a certain disability or illness that the Arkansas Department of Health has deemed suitable. In Oklahoma there are no requirements someone must meet. All they need is a referral from a physician.
The prices in Arkansas, however, are much higher than that of Oklahoma because there are fewer cultivation facilities. If someone were to purchase a gram of medical cannabis in Arkansas they would be paying double the amount than they would if they were in Oklahoma. A gram in Oklahoma costs about $10 depending on the quality, but a gram of that same quality would be $20 in Arkansas.
Storm Nolan, a local hotel executive and medical marijuana advocate, said that getting a temporary license for Oklahoma could be a better option. A temporary license allows an individual with a medical license from another state to legally buy, use, and grow medical marijuana in Oklahoma. A license will cost the patient $100 and be valid for 30 days. A temporary card for Arkansas is only $50, but the price for cannabis is higher.
Wesley Bunn, a former dispensary worker in Oklahoma, said that temporary license holders from Arkansas came in frequently. He added that they typically complained about the prices, strictness of the laws, and even the unwelcome environment that they felt when purchasing the product in their home state.
Nolan attributed the prices to the small amount of cultivation facilities and dispensaries in the state. Currently there are only five cultivation facilities and 16 dispensaries. There are now a total of 33 dispensary licenses. Many the dispensaries in Arkansas are allowed to grow 50 cannabis plants.
According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration the five cultivation licenses were awarded in July 2018 to Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, Bold Team LLC, Natural State Wellness Enterprises, Osage Creek Cultivation, and Delta Medical Cannabis Company Inc. However, only three are releasing product currently. The other two are expected to release medical cannabis products soon. There is a three to four month growing cycle.
In Poteau, Okla., alone there are 27 licensed growers. He said that with more dispensaries and growers the price will go down and the number of patients will rise. The negative aspect of harder-to-obtain medical marijuana causes some to seek cannabis through other means like black market sales. This leaves patients without a safer and regulated option.
Since opening their first dispensary, medical marijuana sales have surpassed over $40 million in Arkansas. This happened in the first 10 months. In Oklahoma, sales reached over $258 million in the same time span. Oklahoma has surpassed Arkansas in business and because of this, patients are more likely to take their business one state over for better prices on product. Only time will tell how far Arkansas is willing to go when it comes to growing their medical marijuana business. This will either include amendments to the laws making it easier for patients to obtain cards, adding more facilities, or both.
Although three of the four medical marijuana dispensaries chosen for west central Arkansas’ Zone 4 were originally in Fort Smith, with one other locally being in Yell County, Fort Smith now has only one licensed dispensary.
The top four ranking Zone 4 dispensary applications approved in January 2019 by the Arkansas Marijuana Commission went to Valentine Holdings, doing business as River Valley Medical Cannabis Company, 9401 Rogers Ave., in Fort Smith; Natural State Wellness Dispensary, at Newlon Road and North Sixth Street, in Fort Smith;; JPS Management, doing business as Fort Cannabis Co., 3904 Ayers Road, in Fort Smith; and River Valley Dispensary, 23788 West Highway 28, in Yell County’s Bluffton with 342.39 points.
According to the Arkansas DFA, there are seven dispensaries in the state that have been inspected and approved to grow on-site. There are quite a few additional dispensaries that have not yet been inspected and approved to grow, a DFA spokesman states.That includes locations that are operational and serving customers but have not yet considered growing, he adds.
The dispensaries currently growing on-site, according to the DFA, are Acanza (Fayetteville); Plant Family Therapeutics (Mountain Home); 420 Dispensary (Russellville); Harvest House of Cannabis (Little Rock); Suite 443 (Hot Springs); Native Green Wellness Center (Hensley); and Greenlight Dispensary (Helena)
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect that although three of the four licenses in Zone 4 were located in Fort Smith, now Fort Smith has only one licensed dispensary -- Fort Cannabis.