Medical Marijuana Patients In Arkansas Are Turning To Oklahoma’s Visiting Patient Program To Get Their Medication

Nearly two years after Arkansas legalized medical marijuana patients might finally be able to get their medication — just not in their homestate.

More than 6,700 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana in Arkansas since the cannabis was legalized for medicinal use back in 2016. However, given the state's slow roll out of the program, none of them have been able to obtain their medication by legal means as of yet. For some of those patients the long wait may be finally coming to an end thanks to Arkansas' neighbor to the west, Oklahoma.

When Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in June, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority created a means for out-of-state patients to purchase medical marijuana via a 30-day temporary license. Arkansas patients hope that measure means they will finally get the medication they need when their medical marijuana cards have been issued. Once that arrives, their medication will only be minutes away for some Arkansans.

"It's a stone's throw away and right across the Bridge," Dorinda Vanzandt - a medical marijuana patient from Fort Smith, Arkansas - told 5News. "Right now we're unable to purchase medical cannabis because they haven't released our cards."

The Arkansas Department of Health says patients shouldn't have to wait much longer to get legal cannabis in Oklahoma.

"Approved patients have called and requested that their card be made available so that they can take advantage of the Oklahoma visiting patient opportunity, and so pending the outcome of the Marijuana Commission meeting next week and the scoring of the dispensaries, the agency anticipates issuing Arkansas Medical Marijuana Registry ID cards within the next 30 days," Connie Melton - Branch Chief of Health Systems, Licensing and Certification for the department - told NPR.

Melton says patients haven't received those cards yet because they need to renewed annually, which comes with a $50 fee. So the state opted to delay the rollout so that patients wouldn't have to renew their cards before they even had a chance to buy their medicine.

The only problem with this stopgap is that Arkansas patients can get their medicine in Oklahoma, but they can't travel back with it. Transporting marijuana across state lines is still illegal, according to Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission spokesperson Scott Hardin.

So Arkansas patients might have to wait till local dispensaries are up and running, which is expected to happen sometime this spring. In the meantime, Oklahoma should expect to see a spike in interstate traffic. 

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