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Demographic Trends Signal Potential Growth in Medical Cannabis MarketLock Icon

2 min read

If Arkansas voters embrace a new constitutional amendment to reshape the medical cannabis system, it would lift legislative bans on pre-rolled joints and dispensary advertising and ease the path to getting a patient card.

Who would make up the expanded market?

Data from the Arkansas Department of Health offers a glimpse. As of mid-2023, 53% of qualified patients were men, and 83.9% were white. Just over 9% were black.

Current state law allows medical marijuana cards after a diagnosis of one or more of 18 qualifying conditions. The new amendment would allow health providers to qualify patients for any condition that they think would benefit from cannabis use.

Three of the 18 conditions account for 75% of patient cards: 34.2% for post-traumatic stress disorder, 29.4% for intractable pain, and 11.5% for severe arthritis, according to state records.

A tiny fraction of card owners — 235 of 92,494, or 0.3% — were under 18. Nearly 5% were 19 to 24, the smallest age group in Health Department’s demographic groupings. The next groupings spanned two decades each: Just over 40% of cardholders were 25 to 44, and over 37% were 45 to 64.

Nearly 16,000 cardholders were 65 or over, a 17.2% slice that industry watchers say could grow with advertising and a streamlined process to obtain cards.

“As an older person, I fortunately know more than most about the benefits of medical marijuana and the ins and outs of it,” said patient advocate Melissa Fults. “But there are many older patients that don’t know what to look for, that don’t know about the dispensaries that are out there. And a lot of smaller dispensaries are hurting because a lot of people simply don’t know about them.

“They should be able to advertise and point out the discounts they give to veterans or senior citizens,” Fults said. She also said advertising could spur competition and drive down cannabis prices. (For sales data on dispensaries, see our list of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.)

Matt Shansky, owner of the ReLeaf Center dispensary in Bentonville, said the advertising restrictions are simply unfair, particularly for outlets close to state lines. “Advertising would be huge,” he said. “Up here they just opened a dispensary in Missouri, right on the state line. It’s about 15 minutes from where we’re located. They had billboards all down Interstate 49 advertising their opening. So advertising would be a game-changer in being able to get our messaging out and engage with our patients in a more direct manner.”

Shansky also supports provisions in the proposed amendment that would let dispensaries honor patients with out-of-state cards. “Getting rid of having to apply for a visitor card and having reciprocity, that’s massive,” he said. If the amendment proposal passes, he said, “essentially if you possess a valid card from a qualifying state, you can purchase [medical marijuana] in Arkansas.”

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