Chart: Lack of dispensaries doesn’t limit first six months of Arkansas medical marijuana sales

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Arkansas posted impressive medical cannabis sales during the program’s first six months of operation, surpassing $21 million, even though only a third of approved dispensaries are open for business.

Between the mid-May launch and Nov. 25, Arkansas dispensaries sold $21.4 million of medical marijuana, comprising 3,098 pounds of product and equating to about $3.3 million per month.

Comparing the first six months of medical marijuana sales in Arkansas to other states, it outperformed Illinois ($2.2 million average monthly sales) and is on pace with Ohio ($3.6 million).

Arkansas’ sales figures are particularly impressive given that initial sales were restricted to dry flower.

Moreover, only 11 of the state’s 32 licensed dispensaries were in operation through the end of November.

Arkansas medical marijuana sales kicked off earlier this year after a series of delays.

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) – the regulatory authority for the state’s MMJ program – said recent sales have defied expectations.

“A few months ago the question was whether we could potentially reach 1,000 pounds sold by the end of 2019,” Hardin wrote to Marijuana Business Daily in an email. “The question now is whether we reach 4,000.”

If sales continue on their recent pace of roughly 210 pounds sold per week, total quantity sold likely will approach that milestone.

Sales have been bolstered by strong patient enrollment that sat at just under 30,000 individuals at the end of November.

That total is more than double the 12,090 patients who were registered when sales began in May, an increase of 148%.

But sales to date may have been suppressed by the 21 dispensaries that have not yet opened.

The ABC said it is considering taking action against nonoperational dispensaries if they do not open for business by the end of January.

Actions might include not issuing a license renewal to those dispensaries when their permits expire in June – potentially opening the door for new entrants to the market.

Perhaps in response to that threat, there has been a recent rush of dispensaries seeking final approvals from the ABC – the last step before they open for business.

The state’s 12th dispensary is slated to open Dec. 10 in Brookland – the first in northeast Arkansas – and three others have entered the final stage of inspections.

Looking ahead, medical marijuana sales in Arkansas through the end of 2019 and into 2020 could continue to defy expectations as the remaining dispensaries come online.

Maggie Cowee can be reached at