Medical Marijuana Growers See Less Green for Grass

Medical Marijuana Growers See Less Green for Grass
Storm Nolan of River Valley Relief Cultivation in Fort Smith (Karen E. Segrave)

Storm Nolan, the Fort Smith hotelier, is now providing accommodations for thousands of medicinal marijuana plants.

His River Valley Relief Cultivation will be making its first harvest in a couple of weeks at a 25,000-SF grow facility near the Fort Smith Regional Airport. And when the cannabis hits dispensary shelves in January, it will enter a market of falling prices, and perhaps urge them lower. (See Cannabis Firm Ownership Tricky to Track.)

“That was the Medical Marijuana Commission’s goal, and prices have already been declining on the wholesale and retail levels,” said Nolan, who owns the cultivation site with his brother, Kane Whitt. The two are also partners in CSK, which owns a half-dozen hotels, including the Hampton Inn Fort Smith and the Holiday Inn Presidential and Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential in Little Rock.

“Cultivators coming on line are adding substantial supply, which is good for prices and good for patients,” Nolan said. He plans to offer a national brand of edibles and products made with proprietary technology new to Arkansas. “New strains, new cultivars, different methods of ingestion. We’re dedicated to getting people the medicine they need.”

Robbin Rahman, a Little Rock attorney who runs his parents’ Harvest Cannabis Dispensary in Conway, said early cultivators had the advantage of a high-demand, high-price market that had to cool. “Pricing has changed dramatically in the last three or four months. The average eighth-ounce price that was once $50 is now $20 and $25 in almost any dispensary you walk into,” Rahman said. “Of course it depends by variety and dispensary, but even without new players, pricing has been undergoing an adjustment. I just wonder if the new cultivators will do as well without the benefits of those higher prices.”

Nolan said he and Whitt are thinking about their mother as the first crop comes in. They became devoted to medical marijuana as an alternative for painkillers after their mom died eight years ago in a struggle with opioids. An accomplished lawyer who got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at 19, Toni Whitt was 57 years old. “She was one of our primary motivations,” Nolan said.