It's been a big story in Arkansas over the past two years and this year will be even bigger. 2018 is expected to be the year medical marijuana is available to patients.

Three thousand patients have already applied for a registry ID card which will allow them to purchase medical marijuana. The Health Department expects more to apply this year, estimating around 30,000 by the time marijuana is available.

"In 2018 you'll see ultimately product being sold on shelves," Scott Hardin with the Department of Finance and Administration said.

As patients anticipate that day, major steps are being taken this year in the blooming business.

"This is going to be a very important groundbreaking year for medical marijuana in Arkansas," Hardin said.

Over the next few months, we'll learn who will grow and sell the drug. There are more than 320 applications, but only 32 dispensary and five cultivation licenses will be awarded. We’ll learn who the five chosen applicants are next month.

Leaders in the industry expect the chosen cultivators to build facilities and plant the first seeds within months of receiving their license. It can take three to six months to grow the plant which means it could be available around this fall.

The Health Department encourages patients to apply online.