The Medical Marijuana Commission will choose five applicants to grow marijuana and 32 to sell it in Arkansas. In February, we'll learn who the five cultivators will be out of the nearly 100 applicants. One applicant who is already in the medical marijuana business told us what the business is like in Illinois.
HCI (Health Central Illinois) Alternatives runs two marijuana dispensaries in Illinois. The company is hoping to get into the marijuana business in Arkansas by applying for a cultivation facility and a dispensary. Chris Stone opened HCI Alternatives nearly two years ago. He has 1,445 patients between his two stores.
"I could tell you 200 stories, if not more, of the positive effects on patients," said HCI Alternatives CEO, Chris Stone.
Stone works alongside Scott Abbott, a retired Illinois State Police Colonel. Abbott didn’t at first support marijuana, but calls his change in opinion "a complete 180."
“The vast majority of what we’re seeing are cancer patients," said Abbott. “It really helps with their nausea, helps keep their strength up because they’re able to eat, and because they’re stronger, they’re able to take their other forms of cancer treatment and they recover from it quicker.”
Now their goal now is to help patients in Arkansas. They applied for a cultivation and dispensary license.
"We like the market in terms of the fact it has many of the ailments we work on in Illinois," said Stone.
Like the company's Illinois stores, patients will have options other than smokable marijuana.
"I think a lot of patients are saying, 'What are my other choices? Can I vaporize, can I eat it, can I use it in an eye dropper form?'" said Stone.
Stone said patients pay an average of $150 a visit and most visit two to three times a month.
“We started out thinking we may carry 60 or 70 products," Stone said. "I don’t think we ever thought we would carry 200 or 300 products."
Stone believes it take cultivation facilities about four months to build and “six to eight months to grow product and get it into market."
That could put marijuana on Arkansas dispensary shelves by September or October 2018. After that they believe the perception of medical marijuana will quickly change in the state.
“People find themselves taking 15, 16 pills a day and really this just provides them an alternative," said Abbott.