LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas may consider revoking medical marijuana licenses for dispensaries that aren't open by June, officials said.
Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control officials, who regulate the state's budding cannabis industry, said they could begin taking action against inoperable dispensaries at the end of January, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. But a necessary rule is still being drafted and won't be ready by then.
Officials have said licenses may not be reissued when they are up for renewal in June.
Scott Hardin, an ABC spokesman, said in an email last week that the amendment legalizing medical marijuana did not include an operation date for dispensaries.
"Due to this, the pace at which these dispensaries are developed and open for business is totally at the discretion of owners," Hardin said. "ABC Enforcement agents continually check in with owners, requesting status updates while offering support and a reminder that the company was licensed to serve patients. ABC will send a letter to each dispensary in early January explaining the process of renewing the license while also requesting an updated time frame for opening."
Marijuana commissioners have expressed frustration at how long it is taking the 32 dispensaries in the state to open since being licensed this year. Only 11 are operating.
Voters approved an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana.
David Couch, the attorney who drafted and sponsored the amendment, said more dispensaries should be open by now.
"It's totally unreasonable," Couch added. "I think a lot of these unopened facilities are managed by out-of-state entities who believe that it's not economically in their best interest to open a facility now, so they're just going to wait. I think that's wrong."
Attorney Alex Gray, who represents several dispensaries, said cannabis companies have been weighing patient count, product supply and locations of other dispensaries.
"From the outside looking in, people don't understand a lot of the facts that go into a business," Gray said. "There may be frustration that not enough dispensaries are open. Given just the timeline and what's required to be invested and the numerous business decisions that have to be made to start a multimillion-dollar industry, these are decisions that have to be made thoughtfully and deliberately."