- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission said it will allow 32 dispensaries to be evenly distributed among the state’s four congressional districts.

The commission, created by the voter-approved amendment that legalized medical marijuana in Arkansas, must authorize a set number of dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to patients referred by their doctors.

“Opening it up for more people in the beginning will let people know that there’s an opportunity for them to be part of this business,” commission chairman Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman said.

The commission also set application and licensing fees for dispensaries on Tuesday. The main source of medical marijuana in the state will be cultivation facilities, which are expected to grow thousands of plants.

Dispensaries that choose not to grow medical marijuana will be charged a $2,500 initial license fee and a $10,000 annual fee. Dispensaries will also have to pay a $7,500 application fee. But dispensaries that do grow their own medical marijuana plants will be charged a $25,000 license fee and a $32,500 annual fee. Those dispensaries are allowed to have up to 50 mature plants.

Most commissioners said it would be easier to set high fees now and lower them later, rather than to do the opposite. But others disagreed.

“We should make that cheaper, because that way people who don’t have a million dollars in the bank can get into this thing,” commissioner Dr. Carlos Roman said. “There’s a lot more economic opportunity for more people with less money.”

The commission must have a final draft of regulations completed by Jan. 23. Unless lawmakers extend the deadline, Arkansas residents should be able to apply for cultivation and dispensary licenses by June.

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