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story.lead_photo.caption Doctor's Orders RX medical marijuana dispensary at 4897 Malvern Ave. made the state's first lawful sale of medical marijuana. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

The first dispensary to open in Arkansas has achieved another first. It has grown and harvested its first crop of small-batch medical cannabis, the company announced Tuesday.

In May, Doctor's Orders Rx, a Hot Springs medical marijuana dispensary, became the first retailer to legally sell the drug in Arkansas. Now it expects to offer three in-house strains of marijuana packaged and ready for purchase next week.

Since May, all of the cannabis available in the handful of open dispensaries has been cultivated at one of three large-scale grow houses in the state. Two of the state's five licensed cultivators still aren't in operation.

Doctor's Orders Rx will be the first retailer to vend cannabis under a provision that allows dispensaries to grow small quantities of, typically, specialized strains of medical marijuana.

"We are thrilled to be able to provide the widest array of products to patients in Arkansas," said Bud Watkins, manager of Doctor's Orders Rx. "We have maintained the highest quality of growing conditions in order to produce some of the highest-quality product in Arkansas -- and independent testing proves that."

Arkansans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, approving Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution.

The amendment allows licensed dispensaries in the state to grow up to 50 mature cannabis plants. The five cultivation facilities are not limited in how much cannabis they can grow as long as it's "reasonably necessary" to meet the needs of qualifying patients.

Doctor's Orders Rx has harvested three strains of cannabis: Geisel, Super Skunk and high-THC Sour Tangie, the company said in a news release. The dispensary hopes to have 1 pound of each strain available Tuesday.

"I am proud of our team for working so hard to be the first dispensary to open, first to grow, and constantly endeavoring to provide Arkansans medical marijuana," Don Sears, owner of Doctor's Orders Rx, said in a statement. "With the leadership of Shanna Weidl, [the grower], we are confident that the products grown in our facility are the cleanest, highest-quality products on the Market."

Since Arkansas' medical marijuana program debuted, dispensary officials across the state have said they'll grow small quantities of specialized strains to address the needs of individual patients who visit their dispensaries.

Some rare qualifying conditions, industry officials said, are better treated by cannabis strains with different chemical profiles than the strains that are widely used to treat more common conditions like chronic pain.

The number of strains available for purchase in Arkansas has remained relatively low compared with other states where the drug is legal.

Aside from Doctor's Order Rx, only Native Green Wellness Dispensary of Hensley has begun cultivating its own cannabis, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which regulates medical marijuana in Arkansas.

In total, 22 dispensaries plan to grow their own strains of medical marijuana. Many of those dispensaries have yet to open for business. Only eight dispensaries are open, and a ninth is expected to open in the coming weeks.

Scott Hardin, an Alcoholic Beverage Control Division spokesman, said four of the open dispensaries have been approved to begin growing.

State regulators expect a boom in dispensary openings this fall. The state has licensed 32 dispensaries.

Since the first dispensary opened in May, qualifying patients have purchased more than 1,132 pounds of medical marijuana in Arkansas, according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. Sales have eclipsed $8.1 million.

The Arkansas Department of Health, as of Friday, had approved 20,768 medical marijuana patient cards for people who suffer from one of 18 qualifying conditions.

Local on 09/06/2019

Print Headline: Hot Springs dispensary 1st to harvest marijuana

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