Friday, November 03, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Medical marijuana

Nearly a year after Arkansas voters narrowly approved legalizing medical marijuana, state regulators have been slow to implement the program.

The Alcohol Beverage Control Board established a Medical Marijuana Commission to issue state licenses to four growers and 32 dispensaries, which are the retailers that will sell marijuana.

The state will probably continue its cautious approach and license the minimum number of marijuana businesses required by voters.

Permits won’t be issued at least until the first quarter of next year, and it will take at least a few more months after that before a marijuana crop is produced and stores can open.

The ABC created eight zones for retailers. Each will have only four dispensaries. The Leader’s coverage area is in Zone 5, which includes Pulaski, Lonoke, White and Faulkner counties.

No more than four marijuana stores can operate in one county. That means Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Searcy and Conway, as well as smaller communities, are unlikely to have a dispensary since Little Rock and North Little Rock markets might be more appealing.

It’s possible all of the Zone 5 permits will be used in Little Rock. The licenses for cultivators will be even rarer, because only four will be issued in Arkansas.

Lonoke County may be an attractive location for marijuana farms because of its proximity to Little Rock and I-40 and fertile soil and experienced farm workers. Jacksonville’s industrial park on Redmond Road might also attract cultivators.

Sales tax from medical marijuana will support technical colleges, vocational schools, workforce training and the state’s general fund. But local sales taxes will support cities and counties.

The economic impact of medical marijuana might have been overstated, so the so-called Green Rush is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Medical marijuana is supposed to help seriously ill patients suffering from 17 qualifying conditions, including cancer, seizures, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease.

Research has been limited because of the federal ban on marijuana, but it has been proven in Europe and Israel, among other places, to treat an array of sufferings. It’s especially successful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, bringing lucidity to elderly patients.

Let’s hope medical marijuana brings comfort to sick patients soon. That’s what families want for their loved ones.