Since the passing of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016, the state’s medical marijuana industry has steadily grown.
Around the state, there are 31 operating dispensaries that are selling medical marijuana, while another seven dispensary companies have licenses and are in the process of setting up operations. (In total, there are a total of 40 dispensary licenses allowed by state law.)
There are also five cultivation companies currently operating around the state, with a maximum of eight licenses available. Three other companies have licenses and are also in the process of establishing their processes.
At the end of 2020, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported that the state had sales of more than 30,648 pounds of medical marijuana, totaling approximately $200.7 million.
Now the state of Arkansas is opening up applications for processor and transporter licenses.
According to Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission spokesman Scott Hardin, the application process for both of these licenses will be non-competitive, and there is no limit on the number of licenses that can be awarded. There is a fee for applying, however. The application fee is $5,000 with a $100,000 bond.
Under the processor license, a company can take product from cultivators, dispensaries or other processor to manufacture medical marijuana products, such as edibles. The transporter license allows companies to deliver medical marijuana products from and to cultivators, dispensaries, processors and labs, although they are not permitted to deliver to patients.
“While cultivators grow the products and dispensaries sell the product, the processor is available as an option for both the grower and the seller if they want to take the flower and turn it into an edible or a vaped product, whatever it may be. This is an option to outsource,” Hardin said.
Cultivators and dispensaries are already allowed to perform both of these services. However, the new licenses will allow them to outsource these activities.
Hardin said that there has been interest in the licenses, but it remains to be seen how many applications will be received. “We don’t know for sure if there will be two licenses or 200. It’s really up to the amount of applications we receive,” he said. However, he said that a “safe projection” for the licenses would be “less than a dozen altogether” for both the transporter and processor licenses.
These licenses could serve as an entryway into the medical marijuana industry for previous cultivation license applicants. “From day one, there has been so much interest in the industry and so much competition…particularly for the cultivation licenses. We can only imagine some of those unsuccessful applicants may see this as another avenue into the industry,” he said.
Applicants will be required to undergo state and federal background checks. Companies will be required to have documentation showing that there will be someone on-site to oversee the operations, as well as property documentation showing that their business has been zoned properly.
All employees will also be required to pass background checks and carry a registry identification card.
“They are looking to see that there is some degree of qualification related to the medical marijuana industry or the agriculture industry,” Hardin said. “What they are looking for is qualified individuals that have some level of experience with these industries.”