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Gummies Can Wait: Arkansas’ First Legal Pot Crop Is In, and It’s All Bud

4 min read

Arkansas’ first legal marijuana crop has been harvested and hung up to dry.

Employees of Bold Team LLC of Cotton Plant, the first operating cultivator in the state’s 29-month march to establishing a medical cannabis market, completed stripping hundreds of mature plants this week.

“The first harvest went great,” Bold Team’s Robert Lercher told Arkansas Business in a Thursday email. “Took slightly longer than projected, but we’re very pleased considering it was our first run.”

He said an announcement of yield will have to await a 7-10 day drying process, but that the weight of the crop was close to 900 pounds. Perhaps 75 to 85 percent of that weight will dry out of the product, leaving 135 to 225 pounds of finished product. “We will soon know the answer,” said Lercher, Bold Team’s director of customer relations.

Bold Team’s customers will be the state’s 32 medical cannabis dispensaries, already licensed but as yet not open for business.  “Dispensaries will set the price to patients,” Lercher said.

The state expects the first dispensary to open in Hot Springs by mid-May, either Doctors Orders RX at 4893/4897 Malvern Ave. or Green Springs Medical at 309 Seneca St.

“Doctors Orders was recently inspected by ABC Enforcement agents and currently awaits a final approval letter from ABC Administration,” said spokesman Scott Hardin of the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, which includes the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control apparatus, which enforces the medical cannabis system. “Green Springs Medical will be inspected over the next several days.”

In November 2016, Arkansas voters approved a Constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, the state has faced several legal and administrative hurdles, and has missed even the target date for sales set by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former chief of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. In February, Hutchinson predicted medical sales would begin in April.

But the great convergence of product and brick-and-mortar sales remains more than two weeks away, Hardin said. 

“Bold Team recently conducted the state’s first legal harvest, product should be available by mid-May, at which time the first dispensary should open,” Hardin said. “As of today [April 24], we anticipate three to five dispensaries will be open by the end of May, with quite a few expected to open their doors in June and July.”

Hardin said prices will be determined “totally by the market.”

A typical crop cannabis crop can be grown in 3-4 months, and Bold Team’s production schedule was to produce more than 650 plants per week, Lercher told Leslie Newell Peacock of Arkansas Times a month ago.

Bold Team is growing both major cannabis varieties seen in the medical market, sativa and indica. Lercher told Arkansas Business that the first harvest will be devoted entirely to the budding flowers of the cannabis plant. Edibles, vaping products and other refinements will have to wait for the second crop. 

“This first harvest is allocated for flower,” Lercher said. “We will start producing products with a portion of each harvest moving forward.”

Employees processing the first plants stripped off the familiarly shaped marijuana leaves and discarded them before harvesting the valuable buds. 

“The leaves that are stripped are gathered up and weighed,” Lercher said. The ABC is notified of the weight, and the leaves are destroyed three days later, he said.

The state doesn’t require cultivators to report net harvest weight to the ABC, “although prior to product leaving the facility it will be entered into our seed-to-sale tracking system,” Hardin said. “This traces the life of each plant to the point of sale at the dispensary. This is a tool ABC Enforcement may utilize” in monitoring marijuana distribution.

Industry experts expect a rush by the state’s 11,000 qualified medical marijuana patients when the first dispensary opens in a few weeks. David Couch, the Little Rock lawyer who wrote and promoted the medical cannabis amendment, anticipates long lines outside the dispensary door, whichever of the Hot Springs sites comes first. “Yes, and I expect that they will run out of product,” he told Arkansas Business. “I’d be interested in how they price it.”

While no initial prices have been established in Arkansas, the average retail price per ounce of high-quality legal marijuana was $320 nationwide in November, ranging from $210 in Oregon to a whopping $600 in Washington, D.C., according to Statista (see the second picture in the slideshow above).

Other elements of the new Arkansas industry are also taking shape as retail sales near.

Osage Creek Cultivation of near Berryville and Natural State Medicinals of White Hall have begun growing cannabis, and as of the latest state count on April 18, 10,538 Arkansas had been issued medical marijuana cards. Each will be allowed to buy 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days.

“Of the five licensed cultivators, three are growing plants,” Hardin said. “We expect Osage Creek and Natural State will have product ready by early summer.”

The other two cultivators, Delta Medical Cannabis and Natural State Wellness Enterprises, both in Newport (Jackson County), are under construction. Before they start growing, Hardin said, they’ll have to pass an inspection by ABC Enforcement agents.

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