The changes medical marijuana brings to Arkansas will likely be less widespread than advocates hope or opponents fear, at least at first, recent history and research suggest.
The voter-approved constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana use will soon fall into place. The state plans to start taking license applications for shops to distribute marijuana products and cultivation facilities in July. The people who qualify to use and possess those products could be able to apply for the necessary state cards even sooner.
The amendment legalizes marijuana use in Arkansas for the first time in almost a century, though it’s still against federal law. Supporters say the drug will mean comfort instead of misery and potentially less risk than other medications for some patients.
“It truly felt like a miracle,” Fayetteville resident Emily Williams said last fall, describing marijuana’s immediate soothing effect on her chemotherapy-induced pain and relentless nausea other medicines failed to alleviate.
But how many patients will want it, how many doctors will allow it and how many marijuana businesses will succeed remain open questions. Experts worry about unintended side effects of legalization, such as lessening the oversight of doctors over their patients’ medications, or want more study into the drug.
“The situation’s looking a little rough,” said Storm Nolan, founder of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, pointing to the inability of marijuana businesses to get many bank loans and other issues. “There are a lot of unknowns, and I know that’s scaring away a good number of people.”
Arkansas in some ways is playing catch-up. People have used marijuana’s medicinal properties for about 5,000 years at least, according to a 2013 report in the scientific journal Pharmacotherapy. Twenty-nine states have