A bill filed Monday
by Sen. Greg Standridge (R-Russellville) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View), SB 254, would prevent Arkansas dispensaries from cultivating cannabis plants, as envisioned by the medical marijuana amendment approved by voters less than three months ago.

The amendment allows dispensaries to grow up to 50 mature plants — a relatively small crop, given the expected demand in Arkansas once the medical marijuana industry is up and running. Most of the state’s marijuana would be produced at larger-scale cultivation facilities, the amendment suggests, which would supply the product to the dispensaries. The state Medical Marijuana Commission — which is tasked with licensing dispensaries and cultivation centers — has voted to allow 32 dispensaries in the state and five cultivators. It has not yet finalized rules guiding the distribution of those licenses and will not begin accepting applications until this summer.

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If dispensaries are stripped of the ability to grow their own marijuana, that would force them to buy solely from the five cultivation facilities, thus concentrating more economic power in the hands of the big growers. Such legislation has been rumored for weeks.

Because the medical marijuana law is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, amending it would require a two-thirds supermajority of the legislature.

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