LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KTHV) - An Arkansas panel has approved a rule that would allow it to hire an outside consultant to help review and score hundreds of applications the state has received from businesses that want to sell medical marijuana.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission on Thursday, July 12 approved a rule that would allow hiring an outside consultant for reviewing the dispensary applications it has received. The panel can award 32 licenses under a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

According to the commission, hiring an outside consultant could speed up the review process.

"I think you see a bit of a sense of urgency among the commissioners," Medical Marijuana Commission spokesperson Scott Hardin told THV11. "They understand Arkansans want access to this product. I think they understand, as all of us do, we want to see this happen as quickly as possible."

Based on the current scenario, Hardin said dispensary licenses could go out by late November and medical Marijuana could become available in Arkansas by the first quarter of 2019.

On Tuesday, July 10, officials formally awarded five licenses to grow medical marijuana. The state Supreme Court last month reversed a lower court decision that had prevented Arkansas from awarding the licenses.

Following on Thursday, July 12, the commission chose to retain the other 90 unsuccessful cultivation licenses.

"Let's say there's a scenario in which one of the five cultivators has the license revoked for whatever reason, [the commission] can then go to the next highest scorer, which would be the sixth highest scorer, and award that cultivation license," Hardin said.

The commission also has power to issue three more cultivation licenses, in which case they could select from existing applications.

The rule change regarding the hiring of a consultant for dispensary application review is expected to go before lawmakers next week.

KTHV contributed to this story, originally written by the Associated Press.