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The state of medical marijuana

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For 118 years, we’ve helped clients prepare for growth, so when it comes to cannabis, we know what to expect.

Since Arkansas legalized medical cannabis in November of 2016, a multi-disciplinary team of attorneys has been working to advise our clients on the diverse range of issues raised by the emerging program. We have now expanded our services to include Oklahoma and Missouri, where we offer experienced counsel and representation on every aspect of medical marijuana. Whether you are an established cannabis business or an entrepreneur looking to jump into the “Green Rush,” our attorneys have the legal skills and the practical experience to help your business get established and grow.


Arkansas is not yet operating, with the first dispensaries expected to open in late spring/early summer 2019. If this state is your target, your best opportunities in the near term are in ancillary services/products, such as growing supplies, security, equipment sales, or in the new processor licenses that are expected to become available in the next few months. Arkansas businesses must be at least 60% owned by Arkansas residents.


Oklahoma is truly a wide open market right now. Anyone who meets basic qualifications can receive a cultivation, processor or dispensary license for only a $2500 application fee. This has led to nearly 700 dispensaries, 1000+ cultivators and 270 processors with approved licenses. Product has just begun to become available in late October, with full supply anticipated in December of 2018.

However, many—if not most—of those receiving a license will not have the capital to succeed long term. Some may not have enough capital to even open for business. This creates a real opportunity for an experienced, well-funded operator to quickly establish dominance in a crowded field. Also, the patient community is enthusiastic and growing quickly, with 1,000-2,000 new patient applications per week.


Missouri is brand new, with 65.5% of the voters passing Amendment 2 in November. The state will now begin implementation, with the first commercial licenses anticipated to be issued in late 2019. For those who are interested in opening a cannabis business in Missouri, the Missouri program’s structure is far more similar to Arkansas than it is to Oklahoma. The Arkansas program strictly limits the number of licenses and chose the “winners” by a merit-based process, but Oklahoma’s program has no limits on licenses and any qualified applicant will receive a license. Missouri’s limits on licenses are far more generous than in Arkansas, but it is not wide open like Oklahoma. In addition, the fees to be charged in Missouri are significantly higher than in Oklahoma, but not as high as Arkansas. Finally, prospective Missouri business owners must be aware that if there are more applicants than licenses available, the winners will be chosen by a merit-based system based on experience and the applicants’ specific operational plans. Your neighbors to the south can tell you that this type of selection process can be somewhat unpredictable and the more preparation that you have, the better off you will be. Make sure you have a seat at the table!