When you close your eyes and picture Northwest Arkansas, what do you see?
For many, the Razorbacks, Ozark Mountain views, Fortune 500 giants and more NWA staples come to mind. But for a budding breed of innovators, a green, flowering plant that characterizes NWA’s newfound medical marijuana business ranks in the list of regional staples.
Believe it or not, Northwest Arkansas’ medical marijuana industry is on the rise. Less than one year after the region got its first taste of medical cannabis, Northwest Arkansas now hosts four licensed dispensaries and one of the state’s five major cultivation facilities.
To learn more about the up-and-coming industry in Northwest Arkansas, Arkansas Money & Politics spoke to NWA dispensary owner Jeff Starling about medical marijuana in the region and its origins.
“Long before any licenses were issued to cultivators or dispensaries, Northwest Arkansas had the highest density of applicants in the state for medical marijuana cards,” Starling said. “It was clear that demand in this area was going to be high, and for that, Northwest Arkansas was the first of eight zones to have all four licensed dispensaries open for business.”
Of those four businesses is The Source, Starling’s dispensary located on Razorback Drive in Bentonville.
“The Source is a deli-style, full-service medical cannabis dispensary with a focus on variety, fair pricing, and customer experience,” Starling said. “Our clientele is reflective of the diversity of people in Northwest Arkansas, with a larger than expected number of retirement-age customers.”
In the same sense that the clientele The Source serves is diverse, so are the issues its products target. Cannabis products found at The Source help with pain treatment, sleep aid, anxiety and more.
“Patients have expressed to us how grateful they are for the availability of an alternative that ended a need for pain killers or sleep aids,” Starling said. “We have heard about aches and pains that are no longer an issue because of a topical or an edible that has finally provided some relief after years of searching for anything that could help. Or a mother of four who was so appreciative of something to reduce her anxiety before cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 16 people.”
“There are countless stories of people who’ve had their lives changed by medical cannabis, and the national temperament towards the plant is shifting.”
Startling isn’t wrong; the attitude towards medicinal marijuana is rapidly changing in America. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center last year, only eight percent of Americans think marijuana should still be illegal in all circumstances.
“As the old, tired “Reefer Madness”-era propaganda fades out of thought, and more progressive ideas about cannabis as medicine prevail, the shift nationally towards legalization is picking up steam,” Starling said. “Medical cannabis didn’t bring crime or illegal activity to Arkansas; it brought a better option for patients seeking relief.”
While catering to a varied demographic who chooses to utilize medical marijuana, Starling and his team at The Source are progressing forward with several new cannabis ventures.
“The next phase of our operation will be to move forward with the cultivation and processing segments of our business. We will be working with some award-winning cultivators to grow some incredible flower, particularly some strains with notably high THC contents and very distinctive terpene profiles” Starling said.
According to Starling, the Source’s strains must level up to the already-progressed Arkansas cannabis market.
“Our production team will be bringing a variety of processed and extracted goods with a focus on purity, quality, and taste. Current Arkansas suppliers have set the bar quite high with quality and consistency early on in our young industry, but we are excited to bring our product lines to market.”