While the number of applications are still being counted, nearly 200 cultivation and dispensary applications were made on deadline day (Sept. 18), bringing the total number of applications combined to 275.
“I expected it would be like this because there was no incentive to turn in the applications earlier,” said David Couch, executive director of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association.
In the end, there will only be five cultivation facilities and 32 dispensaries across the state. Couch expects medical marijuana to be available to patients no later than June 1, 2018. It could be as early as mid-March.
Storm Nolan and his brother Kane Whitt turned in their application on Thursday (Sept. 14). They’re hoping to transform a vacant warehouse on E. Street in downtown Fort Smith into one of the first cultivation centers in Arkansas.
“A lot of work went into it,” Nolan said.
Not only are they wanting to use the 83,000 sq. ft. space for growing medical marijuana and processing it into various products, they also applied to open a dispensary.
“Our proposed dispensary is just south of Zero Street near Rheem,” Nolan said.
It costs $15,000 to apply for a cultivation facility and $7,500 to apply for a dispensary. Nolan said his family has invested $900,000 towards their goal of having both.
For Nolan and his brother, this is more than just a business move. They lost their mom four years ago to addiction.
“There’s real science behind how medical cannabis can help people suffering from chronic pain, just like our mom did, and help them get off of opiates,” Nolan said.
Couch authored the medical marijuana amendment voters passed in November 2016. He said now everything is in the hands of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. They will process the applications after sending each applicant in for a background check, which could take at least a month. The commission of five volunteers will select who gets licensed.
“I think that probably the best way to do it would be to grade the cultivation facility licenses first because you want most of the people to start being able to grow the marijuana so when the dispensaries are approved, they’ll have product to reach the patients,” he said.
Applicants not selected will get half of their application fee back. The rest will go to the state general revenue fund.
Nolan said if he is not awarded certifications for either facility, he will lease the warehouse out to another business.
“I’m confident that it’s the best we could’ve done,” Nolan said. “I think we put our best foot forward and that it’s up for the commissioners to decide.”