West Memphis officials optimistic about new medical marijuana dispensaries

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Three medical marijuana dispensaries are set to open in West Memphis this year, the first of their kind in the Mid-South.

Though medical marijuana is fairly new in the area, many have welcomed it with open arms, including city officials of West Memphis, who said it will do nothing but benefit the people and economy of the city.

“Because of the fact that we will have three out of the four dispensaries in our zone, West Memphis will be able to service the majority of the patients that have been issued a registry identification card,” said a spokesperson for West Memphis mayor Marco McClendon. “We would hope that some of the people coming through would purchase fuel, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the many local businesses West Memphis has to offer.”

All three dispensaries in West Memphis are within just minutes from the border with Memphis, which is in a state that does not have legal medical marijuana.

McClendon’s spokesperson said they aren’t worried about problems that may arise with people taking marijuana across the river because, to get medical marijuana in Arkansas, one has to be a resident of the state and approved for a medical ID card.

A bill introduced in the Tennessee senate in January by Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Mem.) aims to solve this problem. The bill, SB0260, “declares that a person who holds a valid medical marijuana patient identification card issued by another state does not commit an offense in [Tennessee] if the person possesses, or distributes to another cardholder, marijuana not in excess of one-half ounce.”

Some people in the area say they have been waiting a long time for this to be approved.

Lee Otts, executive director of NORML Memphis, an organization that promotes the legalization of marijuana, said this gives him hope that his dream can become a reality.

“Personally, I would like to see cannabis removed from the Controlled Substances Act and be as free to grow as a tomato and the end of the mass incarceration caused by it. No one belongs in jail over a plant,” Otts said.

Otts, a medical marijuana patient himself, knows this goal is a lofty one, but he is glad to see steps in “the right direction.”

With multiple marijuana bills introduced in the Tennessee legislature this year, Otts is hopeful the rest of the Mid-South can eventually follow Arkansas’ lead.

Arkansas was divided into eight different zones with four dispensaries in each zone. West Memphis is in Zone 3, which also has a  dispensary in Rector.

The state’s first dispensaries are set to open sometime around April.

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