Arkansans have bought more than 4,200 pounds of medical marijuana in 2019 -- the first calendar year of legal sales in the state.
That accounts for more than $28.13 million spent on the drug, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
State regulators expect the market to take off even more in early 2020 as the two remaining growing facilities begin full operations and as the remaining dispensaries open to the public.
As of Friday, 14 of 32 licensed retailers had opened, and two more (Red River Remedy and Bloom Medicinals, both of Texarkana) had received final approval to open in the coming days.
Among dispensaries, Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs has been a consistent sales leader. It sold its 1,000th pound of cannabis on Dec. 23. The next-closest dispensary, the Releaf Center in Bentonville, had sold 502.88 pounds as of Thursday, the finance department reported.
Green Springs Medical owner Dragan Vicentic attributed the dispensary's success to being attentive to patients. The dispensary started selling one rotating marijuana product for $5 a gram about a month and a half ago after Vicentic consistently heard complaints from patients that the drug was cheaper on the street.
Nearly all dispensaries sell medical marijuana for a minimum of $15 a gram.
"That's why we're No. 1, bro!" Vicentic said Friday. "Just like Walmart, you've got a loss leader. This is just one of those things where we say we're going to sell one item at cost. We just say we're going to give back to the people that got us here."
Arkansans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, but the implementation of the program has been slow after bureaucratic and legal delays. The first dispensary opened in May.
Patients who have been certified by a doctor as suffering from one of 18 qualifying conditions can legally buy and possess medical marijuana. As of Dec. 20, 32,448 patient cards had been issued, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Portions of the state remain without a dispensary, including Little Rock. Both of the dispensaries in the capital city have said they expect to open in early 2020. Neither had requested final inspection from state regulators as of Friday, said finance department spokesman Scott Hardin.
To celebrate on Dec. 23, Vicentic said, Green Springs Medical had a Black Friday-like sale. On a typical day, he said, the dispensary sees about 450 patients.
He said that dried flower comprises about 80% of the dispensary's sales, followed by vaping cartridges and other products such as edibles and tinctures.
The dispensary's next step will be adding home delivery. Vicentic hopes to start deliveries up to 100 miles from the store in the first quarter of 2020. Where the dispensary delivers will depend on patient concentration and demand in different areas.
Vicentic said prices will decrease as more cultivators make products available for dispensaries.
"That's just supply and demand," he said.
The following are each dispensary's sales totals as of Thursday, according to the Department of Finance and Administration:
• Suite 443 (Hot Springs) opened Friday, May 10, and has sold a total of 234.27 pounds of medical marijuana.
• Green Springs Medical (Hot Springs) opened Sunday, May 12; 1,029.12 pounds.
• Arkansas Natural Products (Clinton) opened Thursday, June 20; 196.53 pounds.
• Greenlight Dispensary (Helena-West Helena) opened Thursday, June 27; 224.58 pounds.
• Native Green Wellness (Hensley) opened Tuesday, July 2; 476.02 pounds.
• Fiddler's Green (Mountain View) opened Thursday, July 11; 396.98 pounds.
• The Releaf Center (Bentonville) opened Wednesday, Aug. 7; 502.88 pounds.
• The Source (Bentonville) opened Thursday, Aug. 15; 385.68 pounds.
• Acanza (Fayetteville) opened Saturday, Sept. 14; 384.2 pounds.
• Harvest (Conway) opened Friday, Oct. 11; 261.56 pounds.
• Purspirit Cannabis (Fayetteville) opened Wednesday, Nov. 20; 55.3 pounds.
• NEA Full Spectrum (Brookland) opened Monday, Dec. 9; 38.95 pounds.
• 420 Dispensary (Russellville) opened Tuesday, Dec. 17; 7.69 pounds.
• Fort Cannabis (Fort Smith) opened Wednesday, Dec. 18; 15.7 pounds.
SundayMonday on 12/30/2019