LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – While the health of patients is the main reason supporters are excited about medical marijuana in Arkansas, a growing number of people are looking for a different kind of benefit: income.
Dozens of them gathered in a conference room downtown Tuesday night to learn about the business of medical marijuana. And they are chasing the new opportunity in several different ways.
“There’s definitely a group in this state,” explained Brandon Thornton, “that have been very instrumental in getting the Amendment passed, and those people are still involved. And there’s other people that, once it passed, kind of thought this might be an interesting thing to get into, and have been researching the best way to do it.”
Thornton, who sits on the board of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association is among those who is tapping into the business potential of medical marijuana.
“As a pharmacist,” he mentioned, “I was really concerned with the safety side, and I knew that we really needed a amazing testing network in the state.”
Thornton is launching a testing facility in Little Rock after being granted a franchise from Steep Hill, an international marijuana testing company. He hopes to open his laboratory in January, and will hire 10 employees.
“We’re going to have a analytical chemist, we’re going to have a microbiologist, we’re going to have some support staff for the lab, some technicians that are trained on the equipment,” he said.
Growing plants and selling to patients may be the well-known ways to make money from medical marijuana, but they are far from the only ways. Jobs will likely be created in construction, security, lighting design and installation, transportation, government lobbying, and other ancillary positions. Thornton said those jobs will cover a wide range of salaries, based on various skill and education requirements.
“There’s pharmacist consultants involved—and, you know, that is a higher-paying job—all the way to people that are going to be more in service roles,” he noted.
ACIA hosted a seminar on Tuesday that featured Brett Roper, CEO of Medicine Man Technologies, a consulting service for medical marijuana companies. He talked about projections for Arkansas’ medical marijuana market, licensing fees, and the benefits of different types of growing facilities.
“For us, there’s no wrong way to grow,” he told the audience. “It’s just, whatever you set up, make sure your growers understand your objectives financially and that you can achieve them.”
Melissa Fults, who led a campaign to legalize medical marijuana during the 2016 election, estimated that the industry would create at least 400 jobs in Arkansas, roughly the same as the number of event planners in the state. According to a report by Leafly.com, Connecticut, which has a similar population to that of Arkansas, has roughly 630 people in the industry, which is equivalent to the number of veterinarians practicing in Arkansas.
The mix and number of jobs, as well as the chance to own a business in an emerging industry, is why people from around the state, whether they want to use it or not, are interested in marijuana.
“There’s plenty of people who look at this as an opportunity to get into,” Thornton stated, “and potentially benefit financially.”
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission began accepting applications for licenses for cultivation centers and dispensaries on June 30, and the application period will run for 90 days. After that, the commission must decide how to rank the applicants before choosing the five cultivation centers and 32 dispensaries allowed in the state. There is no limit to the number of marijuana testing facilities.