Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association
In November 2016, more than 53 percent of Arkansas voters approved Issue 6, legalizing medical marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions. Almost a year and a half later, the program is still in the process of being implemented due to legal challenges. Shortly after the bill’s approval, the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association emerged as advocates for the new, budding industry. The two trade groups merged under the name the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) in December 2018 to form a singular, united voice for cannabis advocacy in Arkansas.
The ACIA is a 501(c)(6) industry trade association advocating for laws, regulations and public policies that foster a healthy, professional and accountable medical cannabis industry. The association’s three-pronged mission focuses on education, protecting patients and advocacy. It is governed by a 12-member board, made up of representatives from licensed cultivators, dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses and promotes legislative and policy advocacy, cooperative advertising and marketing opportunities, special events and networking.
“We are charged with protecting industry stakeholders and patients from overly burdensome regulations and laws that would infringe on access to medical cannabis,” says Robert DeBin, president of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association board.
To meet that goal, the ACIA holds education seminars teach Arkansans about the science behind medical cannabis and how it treats the current qualifying medical conditions. The association holds seminars for health care providers – doctors, nurses and pharmacists – to educate them about medical cannabis and how it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The sessions, often applicable for continuing medical education credit, are designed to help medical professionals have informed conversations about medical cannabis with their patients who have a qualifying condition approved by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), including ADD/ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, migraines, and more.
In addition to helping the medical community, the ACIA helps patients find a physician to write a medical cannabis certification and how to submit an application for a patient card to the ADH.
Another aspect of their mission is to educate those who want to join the cannabis industry in Arkansas, in particular, operators of dispensaries and cultivation facilities. Their education centers around issues with taxation, extraction, general business operations and security.
“Knowledge is the main limit to the success of the medical cannabis business in Arkansas,” DeBin says. “The more that patients, physicians, industry professionals and regulators know about medical cannabis, the better off the industry will be.”