Arkansas Dispensaries and the Future of Legal Weed
The cannabis industry in Arkansas has been changing a lot lately. But don’t worry if you’re not up to speed on everything. This guide will cover everything you need to know about cannabis in Arkansas, including the current regulations, how the dispensaries work, and how you can get your medical card while we wait for Arkansas to fully legalize weed.
Cannabis in Arkansas
Arkansas legalized medical marijuana back in 2016, and the first handful of dispensaries opened their doors in 2019 after a 3-year wait. Arkansas has a unique framework in the sense that they only allow a total of 40 dispensaries to operate statewide, limiting the number of dispensaries across eight zones.
Right now, there are 38 medical dispensaries in Arkansas, along with the eight total commercial cannabis growers that are allowed to be licensed per the framework. Eighteen of these dispensaries, including The Source in Rogers, ReLeaf Center in Bentonville, and Acanza in Fayetteville, are vertically integrated and produce their own cannabis products.
The current regulatory framework for medical cannabis includes a small network of licensed dispensaries, cultivators, and, of course, cardholders. However, Arkansas also has a clever taxation structure in place to fund cancer research and other initiatives that make Arkansas better.
And things have been going well. Right now, about 92,000 people hold med cards in Arkansas, which highlights just how far cannabis acceptance has come in the state. So far this year, Arkansans spent a staggering $205 million on medical weed alone.
As the state progresses and acceptance grows, there have been a lot of recent discussions about the potential for weed to be fully legalized in Arkansas. Recreational cannabis legalization has taken center stage, raising questions about taxes, licensing, and regulatory changes.
Issue 4 was on the ballot last year, but it failed. Arkansas would have worked out its own recreational plan, which would’ve made it legal for people 21 and older to buy weed and possess up to an ounce of it at a time. The amendment would’ve also eliminated medical tax and set recreational at 16.5%. Those taxes would have been used for UAMS, law enforcement, and drug court programs, which help keep people facing drug charges from going to jail.
More importantly, it would have also opened the door for more dispensaries. Instead of being capped at 40, medical dispensaries would’ve gotten an additional 40 licenses to open up retail locations, and another 40 licenses would have been awarded to new businesses. All in all, it would’ve allowed for up to 120 dispensaries all over the state.
But unfortunately, it didn’t pass— and Arkansas is still on the fence about whether or not it’ll happen any time soon. But we’re optimistic, and we’ll get into more on that later.
What are Arkansas Dispensaries like?
While there aren’t a ton of them just yet, dispensaries are still a major part of the Arkansas medical cannabis market. Patients have to visit a doctor and complete their registration forms to get their medical card, which allows them to buy weed legally in Arkansas.
Each dispensary offers its own vibe, products, and pricing structures. Lots of them have daily or weekly specials to help patients save money on their medicine. The cool part is that, unlike some cannabis markets that operate on a cash-only basis, Arkansas dispensaries accept cards.
You can find all sorts of great products, too. For example, each dispensary offers different strains, edibles, topicals, and other medicinal products. Once you get to the store, you’ll show them your ID and medical card, and a friendly, helpful budtender will help you pick out products and make sure you only purchase as much as you’re legally allowed to.
Like all dispensaries, there are taxes on cannabis products in Arkansas. While the prices are average, you can expect to pay an additional 10.5% tax, including a 6.5% sales tax and a 4% privilege tax.
How to get a medical marijuana card in Arkansas
Getting a medical card is pretty easy. You can check out the complete guide to obtaining a card here. But for now, here’s the gist for qualifying:
- You must be 18 or older or have a parent or legal guardian apply to be your caregiver.
- You have to have a qualifying medical condition.
- You must meet with a licensed physician to write you a certification.
- You have to be a resident of Arkansas— you need to have a driver’s license or ID card.
Also, as a heads up, members of the US Military or Arkansas National Guard can’t get medical cards.
What are the qualifying conditions?
If you don’t have one of the following conditions, you don’t qualify for medical weed in Arkansas. But hold on tight; rec may be on the way:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Seizures including without limitation, those characteristic of epilepsy
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Hepatitis C
- Severe arthritis
- Severe nausea
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome
- Pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than six (6) months
- Crohn’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
- Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health
How to Find a Dispensary in Arkansas
Finding a medical dispensary in Arkansas is a breeze with Nationwide Dispensaries. Our platform makes it easy for medical patients and people waiting for recreational legalization to find the good stuff wherever they. Our user-friendly interface allows you to search for the closest medical dispensaries to your location.
Even if you don’t have a medical card, Nationwide Dispensaries can direct you to the closest hemp or CBD shop. Most of which also carry hemp-derived cannabinoids, including CBD, delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, and more. You’ll also be the first to find rec dispensaries when they finally open in Arkansas.
The Future of Cannabis in Arkansas
While it seems like we’re stuck with medical cannabis only for the time being, there is some hope. In 2022, Issue 4 was voted against by 56% of people. Despite the setback, state Senator Joshua Bryant filed a bill in February that may change the way Arkansans view recreational cannabis.
The bill, known as SJR13, aims to place a constitutional amendment on the 2024 general election ballot with the goal of legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas. The proposed amendment would not only legalize marijuana for adult use but also open the door for people to grow their own weed at home— which is something that wasn’t legal in the original Issue 4.
SJR13 states its purpose clearly: “The purpose of this joint resolution is to amend the Arkansas Constitution to legalize marijuana for the purposes of craft or home growing and adult use by Arkansas residents of a certain age.”
While the 2022 amendment aimed to legalize weed, it faced criticism for not allowing people to grow their own weed and for favoring current medical dispensaries for extra licenses instead of fostering a free market.
However, the conversation around full legalization hasn’t faded away. Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national anti-legalization organization that played a role in defeating the 2022 initiative, has already voiced its opposition to SJR13. Despite the challenges and divisions, it’s clear that the discussion on cannabis legalization in Arkansas is ongoing, with proponents and opponents each passionately advocating for their perspectives.
While the path to recreational legalization in Arkansas may have experienced bumps along the way, the introduction of SJR13 suggests that the dialogue remains active and that, even in the face of past setbacks, the possibility of change still resonates. The future of cannabis in Arkansas promises to be an evolving story, with potential economic, social, and political impacts at the forefront of the debate.