Arkansas Finance Department Reports Growth in Medical Cannabis Program

A new report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) highlights significant growth in the state’s medical cannabis program, which began in May 2019.

Since its inception, numerous dispensaries have opened, and approximately 102,000 patients have been approved for medical cannabis cards, according to the Arkansas Advocate.

The medical cannabis industry has generated $1.1 billion in sales since 2019. In 2023 alone, the state collected around $68 million in the first quarter, with $45 million coming in February and March.

Annual revenue from medical cannabis saw steady growth, starting at $31.32 million in 2019, increasing to $181.8 million in 2020, $264.9 million in 2021, $276.3 million in 2022, and reaching $282 million in 2023.

Although 2024’s sales are about $2 million less compared to 2023, product sales have increased, with 17,240 products sold so far in 2024 compared to 13,804 in 2023. This increase is attributed to more competitive pricing, as noted by DFA spokesperson Scott Hardin, who commented that this is beneficial for patients.

Over the past five years, cannabis tax revenue has amounted to approximately $127 million, with $5 million collected in just February and March 2024. Four percent of cannabis taxes fund meals for students in free or reduced lunch programs. The quantity of cannabis sold has also risen significantly, from 4,735 pounds in 2019 to 62,227 pounds in 2023.

Initially, there were only 11,000 approved medical cannabis patients in 2019. By the following year, this number grew to about 43,000, and as of the latest data, it has exceeded 102,000. Hardin noted that the growth has been consistent and expects this trend to continue.

Current data shows that most patients use medical cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. Women constitute 53% of cardholders, with the majority aged 25-44. Additionally, 84% of cardholders are white.

Though April 2024 sales data is pending, Hardin highlighted that sales on April 20 alone reached $2 million, significantly higher than the daily average of $750,000.

Bill Paschall, president of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, has been influential in shaping cannabis policy. He emphasized that fears of negative social impacts from medical cannabis have not materialized, citing effective regulation as a key factor.

David Berman, owner of Natural Relief Dispensary, reported selling 1,067 pounds of cannabis products in February and March 2024. He noted that flower remains the most popular product, though there is increasing interest in edibles, vape cartridges, and concentrates as the market matures.

Arkansas currently permits up to 40 dispensaries statewide, with 38 operational. Approval for the remaining two licenses has been delayed due to ongoing litigation.

One case involves Green Springs Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Hot Springs, whose license was revoked on May 2 due to multiple violations, including selling expired products and failing to maintain sanitary conditions. ABC division director Christy Bjornson explained that revocation was necessary after repeated warnings and violations.

Green Springs owner Dragan Vicentic plans to appeal the decision, believing the revocation to be extreme given his efforts to comply with regulations.

Advocates are working to expand Arkansas’s medical cannabis law through the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Initiative.” If passed in November 2024, the initiative would allow adults over 21 to grow seven mature and seven immature plants at home, broaden the pool of individuals who can certify patients, remove cardholder application fees, and extend card validity from one to three years.


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