The Arkansas Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold.
Department spokeswoman Marisha DiCarlo told the Arkansas Democrat-GazetteWednesday that the cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.
Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but the first cultivation facility does not expect to have the plant ready for harvest until at least May 12. At least two dispensaries in Hot Springs are nearing final approval from the Alcoholic Beverage Control, which regulates medical marijuana.
As of last week, the health department had issued more than 10,500 medical marijuana cards since they began sending them to patients and caregivers in February.
Patients including 65-year-old Rusty Adams, who has neuropathy in his feet, will get the new cards cost-free. He said he thought it was “unfair” that the department had distributed the $50 cards before patients could buy the product. The fee must be paid each year when the cards are renewed annually.
Costs can add up, said Melissa Fults, executive director of the Drug Policy Education Group which advocates for patients. Patients must pay out of pocket for the drug and sometimes must see doctors different from their own who are allowed to write medical marijuana recommendations.