Arkansas legalized medical cannabis in 2016 through a ballot initiative. Now, more than two years after, the state finally saw its first cannabis dispensary open its doors to patients.
In January, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission chose to grant licenses to 32 cannabis dispensaries out of almost 200 applicants. The first among these licensed cannabis stores opened on Saturday.
Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs became the state’s first officially licensed dispensary, as well as the first and only one to operate. Before getting its license, it passed an inspection conducted by the fire marshal and the Alcoholic Beverage Control, which is the body that regulates medical cannabis in the state.
The products that are currently available in this dispensary are supplied by one of the five licensed cannabis cultivators in the state. This grower is, so far, the only one that has harvested cannabis plants. Two other cultivators have just started growing the plant and are expecting to harvest by summer.
Despite the rain on opening day, a long line of eager customers waited outside Doctor’s Orders RX. Dozens of people from different parts of the state, including Jacksonville, Saline County, Herber Springs, and northwest Arkansas, were already waiting by 8 a.m. In fact, some had been waiting since before dawn. They brought umbrellas, ponchos, folding chairs, and even books, cellphones, and crossword puzzles to comfortably kill time while they wait for the store to kick off its operations.
Another dispensary, Green Springs Medical, which is also in Hot Springs, obtained its license on Friday and plans to open this week.
According to Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, there are still no other dispensaries scheduled for approval and inspection. He said, however, that this will change over the next several days.
The Arkansas Department of Health has granted medical cannabis cards to more than 11,700 residents.