By John Lyon / Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ medical-marijuana program is off to a mostly smooth start, observers say, but it has hit a few potholes in the road.
On June 30, the state Health Department began taking applications for registration cards to allow people with certain medical conditions to buy and use the drug when it becomes available, and the Medical Marijuana Commission began taking applications for licenses to operate growing or dispensing facilities.
By the end of last week, 65 Arkansans had applied for registration cards. No one had applied for a license to grow or sell medical marijuana.
David Couch, a Little Rock lawyer and the sponsor of the constitutional amendment Arkansas voters approved in November to legalize medical marijuana, said people may be waiting until close to the Sept. 18 end of the application period to apply for facility licenses.
“I would not apply (until) the end since there is a chance of your application being discovered and copied,” he said.
Joel DiPippa, an attorney with the state Department of Finance and Administration, said DF&A and the Medical Marijuana Commission will not disclose the content of any license applications while the application period is open, citing an exemption to the state Freedom of Information Act for information that would give advantages to competitors.
The medical-marijuana amendment allows licenses to be issued to up to 40 dispensaries and up to eight cultivation facilities. The Medical Marijuana Commission has said it will issue licenses for 32 dispensaries and five cultivation facilities initially, leaving open the possibility to add more later.
State officials have said they expect about 30,000 people to obtain registration cards. Applications will be taken year-round.
Melissa Fults of East End, who led a push for a rival medical-marijuana measure last year, said