Two trade groups (aka lobbies) for the budding medical marijuana business in Arkansas have announced they’ve joined forces to build their strength.

The news release:


The state’s two leading cannabis industry trade associations have joined forces to form a single organization, together making an inclusive and united voice for cannabis advocacy and education.

The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association’s merger is effective immediately. The merged entity will be called ACIA and will be governed by a 12-member board made up of representatives from licensed cultivators, dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses. The merger brings together the expertise and leadership of the most actively-involved individuals and businesses within Arkansas’s cannabis industry. By joining forces, the groups will be stronger and more effective with legislative advocacy, public education and member recruitment.

“It is past time for factions within the cannabis industry to come together on behalf of the physicians and businesses working to make medical cannabis a reality in our state,” said Robert deBin, president of the ACIA board of directors. “We must be united and
inclusive as we go into 2019 with continued challenges. There are tens of thousands of patients who need access to this medicine to treat their medical conditions, and we must continue to raise awareness of the benefits of our industry to policymakers and
the general public.”

As part of the merger agreement between the two entities, members of each organization are now members of ACIA, with benefits that remain the same. Those benefits include legislative and policy advocacy, cooperative advertising and marketing opportunities and special events and networking.

In addition to deBin, board members include Dan Roda of Little Rock, vice president; Brandon Thornton of Little Rock, secretary; Adam Hodge of North Little Rock, treasurer; Dr. Regina Thurman of Fayetteville; and Dr. Kyle Felling of Greenbriar. Both Roda and
Thurman were previously members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association board. Additional board members will be named at a later date following the expected awarding of dispensary licenses.

“As two groups, we shared the same goals of patient engagement, doctor education and legislative action,” said Dr. Thurman, who had been AMMA’s chairwoman. “Aligning these interests under the umbrella of one organization and becoming a stronger voice for the industry and patients we serve just made sense. We are excited to be moving forward with a larger and more effective coalition for the 2019 legislative session and beyond.”

The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association is committed to remaining on the front lines at the Capitol and within communities across the state to advocate for and raise awareness of the benefits of the industry.

Nate Steel, a former legislator, and Alex Gray have been on the legal and lobbying point for the Medical Marijuana Association.  It’s not yet clear who’ll be registered to lobby for the merged group.

Voters approved medical marijuana more than two years ago. Five permits have been awarded to cultivate cannabis and construction of those facilities is underway. The state is still evaluating applications for permits to dispense the product. Spring of next year has been frequently mentioned as a potential start of legal sales in the state. Thousands have completed necessary doctor visits to qualify to buy cannabis for medical reasons.