Medical marijuana sales in Arkansas hit 50,000 pounds this week, just over two years since the state’s first dispensary opened its doors.
Kaliegh Solloway, a packaging specialist at Suite 443 in Hot Springs, said business has only been growing.
“It’s an amazing industry. We’re helping people,” Solloway said. “It’s made a big difference for people, some people have gone from pills to just this. It’s a natural way to heal the body.” Arkansans have spent $338.5 million to purchase 50,085 pounds of medical marijuana, the state Department of Finance and Administration reported Wednesday. There were 77,673 active patient cards in the state as of June 12, according to the state Department of Health.
Sales of the product to patients and dispensaries have netted nearly $40 million in sales tax revenue.
Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, said sales stayed strong throughout 2020 and remain strong. He attributed that to several factors, including the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Americans maintain a two-week supply of medication amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can’t discount the impact of stimulus funding,” he said.
Arkansas voters approved the constitutional change legalizing cannabis for medical use in 2016, and the first dispensaries opened in May 2019. Amendment 98 allows for up to 40 dispensaries spread across eight geographic zones in the state.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has granted licenses to 38 dispensaries and in December declined to issue the two remaining licenses. There are 33 dispensaries in operation in the state and five are working toward opening for business.
Pine Bluff Agriceuticals has been approved to open by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which oversees regulation of medical-marijuana businesses, and will open this month, Hardin said.
The other four licensed dispensaries that have yet to open are 3J Investments in Lamar, Natural Root Wellness in Fayetteville, Missco Cannabis in Jonesboro and Natures Herbs and Wellness in Pine Bluff.
Of the dispensaries that have opened, the Releaf Center in Bentonville was the top seller, with patients purchasing 5,374.92 pounds of medical marijuana since the business opened in August 2019.
The most recent dispensary to open, Native Green Little Rock, has sold 90.40 pounds of medical marijuana since May 6.
May 2021 was a record month for sales tax collections from cannabis, with purchases bringing in more than $3.2 million.
Two state taxes are applied to medical cannabis purchases: the regular state sales tax of 6.5% and a 4% privilege tax.
Revenue from the 6.5% sales tax has netted nearly $19 million since the first medical-marijuana businesses opened. That money goes into the state’s general revenue fund, supporting a variety of state agencies, including those that oversee the medical cannabis program.
Money raised from the privilege tax has surpassed $19.2 million and goes toward the establishment of a National Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The privilege tax revenue is higher because it applies both to cannabis products purchased by patients and to marijuana purchased by dispensaries from cultivators.