BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A vote on recreational marijuana is scheduled for the general election in November, and a local dispensary said it expects to make big gains if it becomes legal for sale.
Kyle Campbell, director of the ReLeaf Center in Bentonville, said the dispensary was one of the first to open in 2019. The work has consistently seen more people, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People at home were more anxious with high levels of stress, and things like that,” Campbell said.
ReLeaf’s patient base quickly exceeded state expectations during the first few months of medical marijuana sales. Campbell said he can only imagine how many people recreational marijuana will bring.
If recreational marijuana is legalized, the ReLeaf Center will research other states to see how they have moved into selling recreational marijuana as well as medical marijuana. Campbell said there is still a routine to do.
Currently, there are 18 requirements that qualify for medical marijuana. According to Campbell, the expansion of marijuana use means that people will have more choices.
“There can be pros and cons to both sides. A lot of the time, taxes tend to be higher on the recreational side, but if you go the medical route, you have to actually go through the process of getting a doctor’s approval. That costs a lot of money,” Campbell said. Money, plus time.”
Scott Harden is a spokesperson for the Medical Marijuana Committee at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. According to ADF data, there are 38 dispensaries in Arkansas. The five in Northwest Arkansas make up more than 19% of all medical marijuana sales in the state.
The five sites sold 817 pounds of a total of 4,245 pounds purchased across the state in August.
Hardin said the commission is working to estimate how much sales tax revenue recreational marijuana would generate if it were legalized.
“Anyone over 21 under this proposal would be eligible to buy the product. The question is, how much do you do? So, that’s why we’re looking at other states, trying to come up with some kind of projection,” Harden said.
When medical marijuana was first legalized in Arkansas, there was a lot of delay for various reasons. This time around, Hardin said the licensing process for those already selling medical marijuana will be almost instant. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will be required to issue 40 licenses.
“All of the current dispensaries will have a recreational license, which means that the same product, the recreational product, will essentially be available in March 2023,” Hardin said.
If recreational marijuana is legalized, then when all is said and done, a total of 120 licenses will be allowed in the state. This is the maximum number allowed by law.
Another thing that might change if recreational marijuana becomes legal is the sales tax on medical marijuana.
“So there will be more than 10% tax on entertainment, but the incentive to stay patient and keep your patient card is the fact that you won’t pay 10% in state taxes every time,” Harden said.
According to the ADF, there are currently 91,220 active patient cards in Arkansas. With a patient card, a maximum of 2.5 ounces can be purchased every 14 days.
In 2022, Arkansas patients so far spent a total of about $750,000 per day on medical marijuana purchases. On average, patients buy about 4,000 pounds of medical marijuana each month.
Since the first dispensary opened in May 2019, the state has collected $78.7 million in state tax revenue from medical marijuana. According to Harden, of that total, $62 million was donated to UAMS to create a National Cancer Institute.