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story.lead_photo.caption This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The owners of two companies selected this week to operate medical marijuana dispensaries in Bentonville said Friday they're in a rush to get running after enduring more than two years of delays.

"Get it open as fast as possible," Erik Danielson with Arkansas Medicinal Source said when asked what his next move will be. "There's been a lot of work put in since the approval of those scores on Wednesday evening. It's been nonstop and will continue to be until we get the doors open."

Registry card

In order to qualify for a registry card to legally purchase medical marijuana, one must meet the following qualifications:

• Be 18 years of age or older or be a minor patient with parental consent.

• Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.

• Have the official written certification from a physician.

• Be an Arkansas resident with proof of residency. (AR Driver’s License or AR State ID card).

• State law prohibits members of the Arkansas National Guard and U.S. military from obtaining a registry ID card.

Here’s a look at the medical conditions that qualify for a medical marijuana card in Arkansas:

• Cancer

• Glaucoma

• Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome

• Hepatitis C

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

• Tourette’s syndrome

• Crohn’s disease

• Ulcerative colitis

• Post-traumatic stress disorder

• Severe arthritis

• Fibromyalgia

• Alzheimer’s disease

• Cachexia or wasting syndrome

• Peripheral neuropathy

• Intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months

• Severe nausea

• Seizures, including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy

• Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis

• And, any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health

The most prevalent qualifying medical condition among medical marijuana registry ID card recipients, 31 percent, is intractable pain unresponsive to medicines, treatment or surgery.

The second and third most prevalent conditions are severe arthritis, 16.1 percent, and post-traumatic stress disorder, 10.5 percent, followed by peripheral neuropathy, 9.8 percent, and fibromyalgia, 9.4 percent.

The least prevalent medical conditions reported were amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, 0.1 percent, Alzheimer’s, 0.3 percent, and Tourette’s syndrome, 0.3 percent.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

Roger Song, one of the owners of The ReLeaf Center, said they're ready to go as well.

"It's been a long time coming," Song said. "It's time to break ground and make this happen."

The top four scoring companies for Zone 1, which includes Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties, are Acanza Health Group; Northwest Arkansas Medical Cannabis, whose corporate name is Valentine Holdings; Arkansas Medicinal Source Patient Center; and The ReLeaf Center.

The list could change because two of those companies have a winning application in another zone, according to Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. Rules limit ownership to one dispensary. The state is divided into eight zones. A total of 32 dispensary locations will be awarded in the state, based on population.

"Based on this, those two companies, Acanza and Valentine Holdings, have choices to make in which zone they choose to license," Hardin said.

If both choose Zone 1, the list of the top four remains the same, Hardin said. If they both choose zones other than Zone 1, the license will then be offered to the next highest-scoring applications, Eureka Green and Ozark Mountain Dispensary, the fifth- and sixth-highest scoring companies respectively.

The top four companies selected in each zone will have a week after receiving their notifying letter to make a decision and pay a $15,000 licensing fee and post a $100,000 performance bond before the state officially issues a permit. Letters were mailed Friday.

Song plans to have a dispensary at 9400 McNelly Road in Bentonville. He said being among the first dispensaries brings with it a responsibility to set a good example.

"We will be breaking ground relatively quickly, in the next couple of weeks. And, we will be in continuous communication with the cultivators," Song said. "Our primary goal right now is to be set up and ready ahead of the cultivators that way when product is available, our store will have that product that same day."

Officials expect the first marijuana to be available in April.

Other ReLeaf owners are listed as Kevin Frazier, Laura Frazier and Matt Shansky.

Valentine Holdings of Jonesboro is proposing a location at 3390 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Fayetteville, according to filings with the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Owners of Valentine Holdings are listed as Lynn Parker, Donald Parker II, T. Michelle McKee, John McKee and Ray Osment.

Acanza Health Group of Little Rock is proposing a dispensary at 2733 N. McConnell Ave. in Fayetteville. Owners are listed as Randi Brazer, Jancey Hutcherson, Matthew Jansen, Joseph Jansen, Grady Harvell, Darlene Hampton, Janinne Riggs and Richard Hutson.

Arkansas Medicinal Source of Fayetteville is looking to have a dispensary at 406 Razorback Drive in Bentonville. Owners are listed as Jeff Starling, David Starling, Aaron Crawley, Mitchell Massey, Mike Tullis, Conor Filter, Robert McLarty and Erik Danielson.

"We'll need to get our plans approved, get our building permit and then start tearing out what's there and building out the total plans," Danielson said Friday. "I'm hoping it won't take more than a couple of months. I hope to start making moves to submit those plans as soon as next week."

Eureka Green's proposed location would be at 309 W. Van Buren St. in Eureka Springs.

There were 29 applications for dispensary licenses in Zone 1.

Dr. Gregory Oakhill said he and some other senior physicians at Highlands Oncology Group submitted two applications, one for a location in Benton County and one for Washington County. They made the top third in scoring.

"We just thought this would be one more thing our patients are asking for that we could help provide and kind of ease their suffering and thought we would be a very good candidate," Oakhill said Friday.

"At the end of the day, it turned out we didn't score high enough to be awarded, but we hope the people who were awarded it are not only very qualified, but are successful and able to bring this treatment to the people of Arkansas."

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission in August hired Public Consulting Group of Boston to assign scores to each of the dispensary applications. The company presented those scores to the commission Wednesday.

Commissioners had earlier scored the applications for cannabis-growing permits, a process which drew criticism and legal challenges from disgruntled applicants, including allegations of conflicts of interest among the commissioners.

Five companies were selected in July to grow marijuana that will be sold in the dispensaries, but none has begun growing plants yet. Licensing for cultivation centers is separate from licensing for dispensaries.

The companies that were issued growing licenses are Natural State Medicinals Cultivation, Bold Team LLC, Natural State Wellness Enterprises, Osage Creek Cultivation and Delta Medical Cannabis Co.

Licenses were awarded after each company paid a $100,000 license fee and a $500,000 performance bond.

Several of the same companies that received growing permits also were selected to receive dispensary licenses.

The Arkansas Department of Health has approved 6,764 patients, as of Jan. 4, for medical marijuana ID cards, which allows them to legally purchase, possess and use medical marijuana. To obtain a card, patients must receive certification from a doctor they suffer from one of 18 qualifying conditions. The cards cost $50 and have to be renewed annually.

Cards are expected to be distributed in February.

Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in November 2016, but legal challenges and regulatory hurdles have delayed implementation. Arkansas is one of 33 states to legalize medical marijuana.

NW News on 01/13/2019

Print Headline: Marijuana dispensary owners ready to get started

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