Many local news outlets have regularly reported on how few applications to run a medical marijuana cultivation facility or dispensary the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has received. The deadline for applications is Sept. 18. Until then, the numbers are meaningless.

“There’s no incentive to turn in an application early,” David Couch, the lead petitioner to get the medical marijuana amendment that’s now law on the ballot.

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The commission will eventually award licenses to 32 dispensaries — four per eight geographic zones — and five cultivation facilities. Couch expects more than 40 applications for cultivation facilities and more than 300 plus for dispensaries, based on the people he’s talked to who plan to apply. The parts of the application that might reveal a competitive advantage are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, but why risk the exposure of any part of such a potentially lucrative business plan? Couch asked.

“Leaks are a legitimate concern, too,” Couch said. “I’m not saying anyone [at the Medical Marijuana Commission or the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration] would leak. But even if it’s a remote possibility, why do it?”

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Take a look at the applications for dispensaries and cultivation facilities. They’re massive. Each section is worth a certain number of points. Bonus points are available for the likes of plans for medical marijuana-related research, compassionate care, education and patient and public safety. After the deadline, the five Medical Marijuana commissioners will individually score each application. That process is expected to take many weeks.

The planned placement of the facilities would be among the most closely guarded secrets of the applicants. Dispensaries must be 1,500 feet away from churches and schools. Cultivation facilities must be at least 3,000 feet away from them. Especially for dispensaries, that distance requirement will likely be a challenge. In such a potentially competitive process, some applicants may see an advantage in putting a facility in a less prosperous county, which can earn applicants extra points. The commission has divided counties into four tiers, which you can see on the applications.

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Couch also said he didn’t think the 800 or so Arkansans who’ve been approved to get medical marijuana cards was indicative of much of anything. The Arkansas Department of Health won’t provide the actual cards until one month before medical marijuana is available in dispensaries. Most doctors who are certifying that their patients have one of the qualifying conditions are charging $250 for their service. “Why pay your $250 and just sit and wait?” Couch asked.