The state has a new legal marijuana grower, and he’s hoping to supply the medical cannabis market with enough product to bring down prices.
River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort Smith, owned by hotel chain entrepreneur Storm Nolan, has passed its final inspection and “recently received formal approval to launch operations,” state spokesman Scott Hardin told Whispers. The “grow is now underway,” he said.
Nolan confirmed that he’s been fully cleared by the state to run his 25,000-SF operation in warehouse space River Valley owns near the Fort Smith airport. “Our whole goal is to bring more affordable and high-quality cannabis to Arkansas,” said Nolan, a partner in CSK Hotels of Fort Smith.
“You probably have heard that patients still consider Arkansas products to be way too expensive. So we’re eager. Our train is coming down the tracks and we’re here to help.”
The Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration also offered an update on this year’s industry expansion from 32 to 38 dispensaries and from five to eight cultivation centers. Amendment 98, which allowed medical marijuana after a 2016 vote, allows eight cultivation licenses and 40 dispensary licenses.
“All the licensed dispensaries are operational with the exception of 3J Investments (Lamar) and CROP (Jonesboro),” Hardin wrote in an email. He added that the five cultivating companies licensed by the state — Delta Medical Cannabis Co. of Newport, Bold Team of Cotton Plant, Osage Creek of Berryville, Natural State Medicinals of White Hall and Good Day Farm of Pine Bluff — are all growing cannabis and selling products to dispensaries.
In the Pipeline
The two other cultivation companies that were licensed along with River Valley Relief last year have not passed their final state inspections, Hardin said. They are Carpenter Farms of Grady, licensed to Abraham Carpenter, and New Day Cultivation of Hot Springs, led by Carla McCord.
The state also listed its first licensed cannabis processors, who will take cultivator-grown marijuana and convert it into processed products like edibles and vape cartridges. The processors are Dark Horse Medicinals of Little Rock, led by Casey Flippo, and Shake Extractions LLC of Fayetteville, licensed to Julie Brents.
Officials say that when all eight cultivators and 38 dispensaries are open, they will have a better perspective on supply, demand and pricing. “That’s the point when we can determine the health of Arkansas’ medical marijuana market,” Hardin told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in March.
State law places no limit on how much cultivators grow, Hardin said, but he acknowledged that Arkansas patients sometimes buy marijuana on the black market for less than they would pay at a dispensary, or cross into Oklahoma, which has 1,700 dispensaries and enough competition to keep prices lower.