The Arkansas Health Department has begun distributing medical marijuana registry ID cards, which are necessary to purchase medical marijuana when it becomes available in Arkansas.

The cards have an effective date of Feb. 15. Cultivation operations by five permit holders are in various stages of completion and 32 dispensary licenses have been issued. In recent days, state officials have been predicting April as the beginning of availability of the drug to use for people with certain medical conditions, a list that could grow under pending state legislation.

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About 7,000 cards have been approved. Physicians provide certification for them. The patient pays a $50 application fee.