LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Back in May of 2019, the first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Arkansas. Now, two years later, that number has grown to 33.
The medical marijuana demand has exceeded many experts' expectations. Just within 30 minutes of Little Rock, you have the option of seven different dispensaries.
Medical Marijuana Commission spokesperson Scott Hardin said while competition heats up, the state is almost to its maximum limit.
"When Arkansas passed the medical marijuana amendment back in 2016, they approved the authorization of up to 40 dispensaries in the state and up to eight growers in the state," he said.
Now two years after the first dispensary opened, according to Hardin, the state has issued 38 dispensary licenses and the full limit of eight growers licenses.
"There's this ongoing complaint of asking, 'hey why don't you issue more dispensary licenses or growers licenses?'" he said.
But Hardin said that can't happen. Either voters would have to go back to the polls or the legislature would have to take action.
"To say that patients here have choices and that there's quite a bit of competitiveness among those dispensaries, I think would be an understatement," he said.
According to Hardin, since 2019, patients have spent more than $300 million to get 45,000 pounds of medical marijuana.
This means daily, under $900,000 dollars are being spent among the 76,000 Arkansans with a card.
To date, the state has collected more than $30 million in taxes from medical marijuana, which Hardin said is being split two different ways.
"You have some of the money going into the state government and then you have some of it going specifically toward an establishment of a national cancer institute," he said.
Jarrett McFarlin is the general manager of Custom Cannabis in Alexander, which is one of the seven dispensaries located within 30 minutes of the capital city.
"The competition has picked up since we initially opened," he said.
But that rivalry hasn't been a problem for McFarlin. Since September, he said sales have doubled and he's now serving about 400 patients every day.
"We are seeing those numbers increase steadily, especially as COVID restrictions are starting to ease on the federal and state levels," he said.
McFarlin believes as more dispensaries open, demand will follow and the competition isn't a concern.
"I think there's enough for everybody," he said.
Hardin said one major discussion right now is getting more dispensaries out to rural areas. He said more than half of the dispensaries have requested a transfer of location.