The countywide medical marijuana card counts used to create the map and list found in this week's cover story, Medical Marijuana Cards Prized in North-Central Arkansas, came from the Arkansas Department of Health last Wednesday, and it was the third version of the data released to Arkansas Business since it was first requested in early November.
The first two lists contained countywide counts that were hard to believe, to put it mildly. For instance, ADH reported that more than 4,400 cards had been issued to residents of Arkansas County — meaning more than 1 in 4 adults living in the county had been certified by a physician as having one of 18 specific conditions.
The statewide average is about 3%.
Other data was promptly updated in a revised report to the General Assembly, but the Arkansas County number was declared to be correct.
Searcy County was supposedly even more enamored of the weed, with 1 in 3 residents having received a card. At least according to ADH’s second set of numbers.
Journalistic efforts to find someone — anyone — who could explain such penetration struck out. Not ADH, the keeper of the numbers. Not the state Medical Marijuana Commission, which had not analyzed the countywide numbers for 2021. Not the Arkansas State Medical Board, which has not looked into any patterns of certification by physicians.
David Wroten, executive director of the Arkansas Medical Society, also questioned the ADH card counts. “It is hard for me to fathom any county having a number like that,” he said.
Told that a quarter of his constituents had been issued medical marijuana cards, Arkansas County Judge Eddie Best was skeptical. “That’s hard for me to swallow,” he said. “If that number is correct, we’re going to pot down here.”
Finally, 28 days after Arkansas Business first flagged problems with the data, ADH revised its report to legislators again. Only 324 cards have been issued in Arkansas County — less than 2% of the population. And Searcy County, where Marshall is the seat, has one of the 10 highest concentrations of marijuana cards, but 4.45% is a far cry from 34%.