- Associated Press - Friday, April 19, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Medical marijuana sales in Arkansas are set to begin around May 12 as cultivators plan to begin harvesting the plant in the coming days and regulators finish the approval process for the state’s first dispensaries.

Department of Finance and Administration Spokesman Scott Hardin said the final decision for licensing Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs, which would be the state’s first operational dispensary, will be made within the next two weeks. The dispensary has been inspected by both the Alcoholic Beverage Control, which regulates medical marijuana, and the fire marshal and is awaiting final approval.

Three of the five licensed cultivators have begun growing, Hardin said, with Bold Team in Cotton Plant expecting to have their first harvest ready to be sold by May 12. Bold Team’s cultivators expect to have about 200 pounds of product dried and cured for an initial harvest, spokesman Robert Lercher says.

Two other cultivators, Natural State Medicinals Cultivation in White Hall and Osage Creek Cultivation in Berryville, have also begun growing, Hardin said, and both expect to have their first harvest by summer. Hardin said the final two cultivators have broken ground and are constructing facilities.

With around 10,500 Arkansas residents licensed for medical marijuana use - and 40,000 expected when all licenses are issued - but only one cultivator ready to harvest, many are concerned that the initial supply might not meet demand.

“My biggest concern is that there’s going to be shortages right off the bat,” David Couch, the attorney who wrote the medical marijuana amendment Arkansas voters approved in 2016, said. “They’re going to run out of product and people are going to be disappointed and back to zero again,” he said.

Hardin said another dispensary in Hot Springs, Green Springs Medical, should be ready for final inspection in the next week or so. He also said “a couple” other dispensaries have indicated they’re nearing completion.

“The scenario we anticipate is by the end of May likely having three to five dispensaries operational with that number continuing to grow as we enter June, July and August,” Hardin said.

Green Springs Medical’s owner, Dragan Vicentic, said he thinks his dispensary is “90% of the way there,” and hopes to have a final inspection the first week of May.

Vicentic said because product availability is expected on a Sunday, Green Springs Medical will likely open its doors Monday, May 13. He said he expects product to sell out the first day.

“I’ve had people saying, ‘Hey, I’m driving three hours and I’m going to spend the night at a hotel there the night before,’” Vicentic said.

Vicentic also said he’s not sure what he’ll have in stock, or how the product will be priced, though he does expect to have products available to vape and smoke.

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