ARKANSAS — In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission approved the selection of 32 companies out of nearly 200 applicants to be licensed to sell medical marijuana in the state.
"I'm hoping the medical marijuana does help with the pain and being able to sleep," said one woman hoping to take advantage of the new law. "That's the only reason I want it."
The woman, a patient at Arkansas Progressive Medicine in Jonesboro traveled to the state to meet with the clinic owner Dane Flippin. Flippin's practice is devoted solely to medical marijuana.
"I have been prescribed pains pills but with opioid addiction, that's something that I didn't want," the patient said.
Flippin said the requirements for patients seeking medical cannabis can be overwhelming.
"You have to have a certification from a medical doctor that you have one of the eighteen qualifying conditions," Flippin said. "You have to be a resident of Arkansas to participate in the program. "
Flippin said opening medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas means patients won't have to travel long distances to places where no medical certificate is needed.
"We've had people called medical refugees that will live in a state that's illegal and move to Colorado and live there and treat their problem," Flippin said.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission established eight zones, each with four dispensaries. Zone three in the northeastern part of the state, for example, will have dispensaries in Hardy, Paragould, Jonesboro and West Memphis.
Flippin said patients who suffer from ailments like extreme pain, severe arthritis, cancer, chronic nausea and PTSD will be able to see the true benefits of medical cannabis.
He said he has seen an increase in the number of older patients who are seeking help.
"I think a lot of older people are looking for something that will help them with what they're not getting from medicine or anything they're doing," the patient said.
There are already two companies that have started growing medical cannabis in the state.