LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The first medical marijuana dispensary in Arkansas opened in the spring of 2019.
Since then, Arkansans have purchased $600 million worth of medical marijuana.
Some of that money is going back to cancer research, and it couldn't be at a better time as the state looks to help patients get care never provided here before.
"It's very exciting for cancer patients in Arkansas. They absolutely deserve an NCI designated cancer center," said Dr. Michael Birrer, Director of Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
Thanks to the Arkansans who buy medical marijuana those tax dollars are going to UAMS for a new cancer research facility.
The Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute will have a new oncology and radiation center, which will provide new clinical trials, therapies, and treatments.
"It will guarantee them a level of cancer care that I don't think they have right now," said Dr. Birrer.
There's a 10.5% tax on medical marijuana.
Four percent of that is earmarked for the UAMS Cancer Institute and the other 6.5% goes into a state holding fund where that money will be given out at the end of the fiscal year to reimburse state agencies that assist in the medical marijuana program. The rest goes back to the UAMS Cancer Institute.
So far, the tax has generated $65 million.
"Resources and the dollars from the state are incredibly important," said Dr. Birrer.
It will take a couple more years before UAMS finishes building those additions to the facility, as well as finalizing the applications to be accredited by the National Cancer Institute.