After previously denying a request for a medical cannabis dispensary to relocate to Jonesboro, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission unanimously overturned its decision Monday.
MissCo Cannabis Dispensary in November had been denied its request to move its retail permit from Osceola. The company is one of six dispensaries that have been awarded licenses but have yet to open in the state.
"Craighead County and Greene County together comprise almost half of the cardholders in the entire zone," said Casey Castleberry, attorney for the dispensary, referring to the card required for patients to purchase the drug. "Jonesboro also is the health care hub of Zone 3."
Eight geographic zones were created for dispensary licenses after the state voted in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana through Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution. Each of the zones is allotted up to five dispensaries.
MissCo is one of five dispensaries approved for Zone 3, which comprises 14 counties in northeastern Arkansas. Craighead County, where Jonesboro sits, has a population of about 110,000, nearly double the 40,000 population of Mississippi County where Osceola is located.
Castleberry asked the commission to reconsider after the company received additional support for the move in a letter from Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson. He also argued the relocation was similar to other requests the commission has approved for other dispensaries, one of which opposed MissCo's move during the meeting.
Erika Gee, representing NEA Full Spectrum dispensary, argued that approval of MissCo's relocation request would put a high concentration of dispensaries in two counties in the zone -- Craighead and Crittenden.
With MissCo's move, both it and NEA Full Spectrum will be located in Craighead County, while the zone's three other dispensaries are in West Memphis in Crittenden County.
"We would suggest that does not serve the residents in the state," Gee said.
Rep. Monte Hodges, D-Blytheville, spoke in favor of the move. He noted that the dispensary still plans to serve Mississippi County customers through a delivery service.
Commissioner Kevin Case made the motion for approval of the transfer after little discussion.
The commission has issued 38 dispensary licenses in the state since medical marijuana was legalized. Amendment 98 allows for 40, but the commission decided to not issue two licenses late last year.
As of Monday, there were 75,313 Arkansas residents with medical marijuana cards. Patients must meet at least one of 18 qualifying conditions to be approved. The number has jumped nearly 10,000 since February, when 66,638 residents had medical marijuana cards.
Since dispensaries opened in May 2019, residents have spent more than $285 million to obtain 42,769 pounds of marijuana, Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said Monday.
He said sales are averaging about $880,000 per day across the state. Currently, the Releaf Center in Bentonville has sold the most medical marijuana in the state at 4,618 pounds since it opened in August 2019.