Out-of-state medical marijuana patients may apply for temporary licenses in Oklahoma, but Arkansas residents have to wait a little longer until they can be approved.

“People who are visiting our state and aren’t residents of Oklahoma can get a temporary card,” said Melissa Miller, Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority communications manager. “(It) allows an individual with a valid medical marijuana license from another state to legally buy, use, and grow medical marijuana and medical marijuana products in Oklahoma.”

Miller said it cannot be taken across state lines, but the licenses, valid for 30 days, are renewable. Around 30 temporary license applications, some from California and Arizona, have been approved.

A card, however, can’t be approved for longer than the patient’s original license, Miller said. If a patient’s home state license was set to expire Jan. 31, an application for February would be denied.

Arkansas access

Arkansas residents have received approval letters but not cards due to legislative limbo. More than 6,700 patients have been approved, as of Dec. 28, 2018.

Following the opening of Pharm 788 Tuesday in Roland, Channel 5 News said it was unclear if dispensaries could accept the letters.

Miller confirmed Arkansas patients can’t currently receive a temporary license. While people have approval letters, the state requires the card. It also mandates proof of identity — state-issued driver’s license, identification card, U.S. Passport or other government-issued photo identification — a full-color photo and fees be included with the application.

Oklahoma medical pot licenses feature patient information, date of birth, a license number and photo. They look similar to drivers licenses, Miller said.

Meg Mirivel, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Health, confirmed Thursday a statement given to 40/29 News that cards will likely not be distributed until February. They should be issued within 30 days of the next Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

The department’s website states cards “will not be available for printing until one month prior to medical marijuana availability in Arkansas dispensaries.” April is the earliest a harvest could occur, according to previous reports.

Mirivel said the department didn’t want people to pay for their card, which is good for one year before renewal, and not be able to use it.

There has been “a lot of interest” in the cards being distributed, so Mirivel said the department will begin the process.

Big business

Demand for medical cannabis is booming in the Sooner state.

“We already have about 36,000 applications four months in,” Miller said. “We’re seeing the demand on the patient side.”

That breaks down to applications for about 33,100 patients, 230 caregivers and 2,760 businesses, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority Twitter account.

Of those applications, roughly 29,200 have been approved for licenses, as of Dec. 31, 2018. More than 26,700 are for patients or caregivers. There are 805 approved dispensaries, 1,300 growers and 340 processors.

More than $7.5 million has been brought in through registration fees, according to a December Associated Press report. 

The pot process

Arkansans voted in 2016 to allow medical marijuana, but patients remain unable to utilize the right.

The state’s commission was scheduled to announce Dec. 19 the scores for dispensary and cultivation sites. Public Consulting Group — the organization that reviewed the applications — was unable to attend the meeting, so it is planned for next week.

Five companies were approved as cultivators, though the commission can approve up to eight.

River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith was a finalist and tied for sixth with New Day Dispensary. If an approved facility’s license is revoked, the two would draw out of a hat for the next spot.

Storm Nolan of River Valley Relief previously filed a lawsuit alleging Delta Cannabis Company, approved dispensary, lied on its application about experience and qualifications. Nolan told Channel 5 he “was 100 percent OK with (finishing sixth)” until his group began verifying the tip he received about Delta.

A previous Times Record report notes two growers, including Delta, are also being reviewed for proposing locations within 1,000 feet of what could be considered a “school.”

Arkansas Tech University-Newport has more than 800 students enrolled in concurrent classes through an on-campus program.

Medical marijuana facilities may not be within 3,000 feet of a public or private school, according to state law, but Texarkana attorney Darren Anderson said the definition is unclear.

Federal law doesn’t specify medical marijuana but says production of a controlled substance can’t occur “within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, vocational, or secondary school or a public or privately college, junior college, or a university.”

If both growers’ licenses are revoked, River Valley Relief and New Day would be the next approved applicants.

Medical marijuana has been cited as a treatment for various conditions, including anxiety, nausea, seizures and chronic pain. Two studies from the American Medical Association suggest states with medical pot laws have lower opioid usage, though many physicians remain cautious for various reasons about prescribing or discussing cannabis with their patients.

Two local doctors’ offices were raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency in November for allegedly prescribing 2 million opioid pills to hundreds of Arkansas patients in two years. The drugs were tied to deaths and distribution, according to the affidavit.

Drug overdoses rank just out of the top 10 for leading causes of death in Arkansas with nearly 450 in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This means there were approximately 15 drug-related deaths per 100,000 people.

Sebastian County ranked No. 6 in opioid prescription rates in Arkansas with 153 per 100 residents, according to the CDC.