LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas will soon begin taking applications from those who hope to grow and dispense medical marijuana, though the state’s strong religious heritage and restrictions imposed by the Legislature will limit where greenhouses and distributors can operate.
Voters last November made Arkansas the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical marijuana, clearing its use by people with certain medical conditions. While setting up rules for licensing, legislators said growers must be at least 3,000 feet from churches, schools or daycares, while dispensaries must be 1,500 feet away. The limits will make it tough for some towns and small cities to host marijuana operations.
“Some cities are reviewing where churches, schools and daycare centers might preclude the location of cultivation facilities and dispensaries,” said Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League.
Arkansas had 6,697 congregations, synagogues and Muslim houses of worship in 2010, according to a study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Zimmerman said many towns have so many churches that it could be difficult to site a greenhouse or dispensary close to where people live — “especially in small, compact cities.”
For example, the survey showed 94 congregations in Malvern, a town of 11,000 that covers 9 square miles. Add daycares and schools and the number of potential sites is limited further.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is set to begin accepting applications for cultivation and dispensary licenses for on July 1. Applications will be accepted for 90 days, and then officials will score and process them before awarding licenses based on merit. The cultivation license application fee is $15,000, and a $100,000 fee is required from an applicant who has been selected to receive a license.
The panel expects to issue five cultivation licenses initially, with as many as eight