LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Arkansas' medical-marijuana program is mostly off to a smooth start, but applications for medical marijuana cards are off to a slow start.
So far, submissions from patients seeking medical marijuana cards have been lower than expected according to Robert Brech, General Counsel for the Arkansas Department of Health.
"There's not a big rush for them, but I would encourage them to go ahead and apply as soon as possible, so they don't get caught in the big rush once marijuana is available. We think we will get a lot of applications," Brech said.
Brech said the department has received just over a thousand applications from people wanting to use medical marijuana. 534 of those have been completed and approved. The agency had projected around 30,000 people would apply for medical marijuana cards.
Melissa Fults with the Drug Policy Education Group, believes more people would apply for registration cards if not for one problem.
"We don't have anyone in Central Arkansas. The doctors, I don't know if they're afraid or they don't understand it or they don't want to understand it," she said.
The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association lists 14 Arkansas physicians who are willing to write certifications for medical cannabis. Fults said she hears from patients daily who can't find a physician to sign off on their application despite being diagnosed with one of the 17 qualifying conditions.
"In the last 3 hours, I've probably gotten 15 calls. My phone rings constantly with patients saying, what can I do? Now, I'm afraid to talk to my doctor," she said.
During the campaign, the Arkansas Medical Society opposed the initiative along with the states surgeon general and a number of other groups. On the cultivation and dispensary side, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said, so far, they have received no applications to grow and distribute medical marijuana in the state.