For 120 years, we’ve helped clients prepare for growth, so when it comes to cannabis, we know what to expect.
Since Arkansas legalized medical cannabis in November of 2016, a multi-disciplinary team of attorneys has been working to advise our clients on the diverse range of issues raised by the emerging program. We have now expanded our services to include Oklahoma and Missouri, where we offer experienced counsel and representation on every aspect of medical marijuana. Whether you are an established cannabis business or an entrepreneur looking to jump into the “Green Rush,” our attorneys have the legal skills and the practical experience to help your business get established and grow.
The Arkansas medical marijuana program is off to a slow start, with the first dispensary opened in May of 2019 and only 11 out of the 32 licensed dispensaries and 3 of the 5 cultivation facilities operational by the end of the year. The state has seen a total of $21.35 million in sales as of December 2019, with retail prices remaining fairly high. The best opportunities for investment or involvement in the Arkansas cannabis market is in ancillary services/products, such as growing supplies, security, equipment sales, or in the new processor licenses that are expected to become available early in 2020. Arkansas businesses must be at least 60% owned by Arkansas residents.
Meanwhile, the hemp program administered by the state Department of Agriculture got off to roaring start in its first full growing season in 2019, with nearly 2,000 acres of fields and 80 farmers authorized to grow industrial hemp. The state has also licensed 18 processors to extract CBD or otherwise process the raw hemp. Observers expect that this market will increase significantly in 2020.
The Oklahoma market began with a bang, with legalization in late June 2018 and the first sales beginning only 90 days later. In less than a year, Oklahoma has licensed 1,535 dispensaries, 4,393 cultivators and 1,188 processors, with more applications every day. It is truly a wide open market right now.
Some cynics believed that the patient market would lag behind the licensees but that has not been the case. In fact, Oklahoma currently leads the nation with the percentage of the population holding a patient license at 5.3%. That is in comparison to Illinois at .7%, Ohio at .5% and Maryland at 1.4%. This is likely due to the fact that Oklahoma does not restrict patients to those with a specific qualifying condition; instead, it authorizes physicians to certify patients for any condition that they think will benefit from cannabis.
All of this activity has yielded a market that continues to surprise the rest of the country, with sales in the 9th month alone at $40 million, outstripping Nevada’s recreational use 9 month sales of only $27.7 million. This creates a real opportunity for an experienced, well-funded operator to quickly establish dominance in a crowded field.
Missouri is brand new, with 65.5% of the voters passing Amendment 2 in November 2018. The state will now begin implementation, with the first commercial licenses anticipated to be issued by the beginning of 2020. There are already opportunities for experienced operators and investors as applicants wait for the licenses to be awarded and, if the Arkansas experience is a guide, there will be even more opportunity to become involved as the build out and operational phases begin. Make sure that you have a seat at the table in what is expected to be a robust marketplace.