ILLUSTRATION: TALIA BLANTON

Governor Hutchinson squashed a legislative bid in February to expand the list of conditions that would qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card.

State Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) failed to get a motion for a do-pass recommendation in the House Rules Committee for his proposal to add 40 medical conditions to the list of 18 that have approval now. ADH Director Nathaniel Smith and Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe, who testified before the committee on the proposed bill, noted the governor’s opposition to the legislation.

Shortly after the committee met, the Health Department issued a “Public Health Advisory” warning of the risks of cannabis products — including hemp — to human health. Bledsoe and state Drug Director Kirk Lane joined the health department announcement. Among the warnings: Today’s marijuana is more potent than what was available in your parents’ day, so “the long-term health or developmental consequences of exposure” to the higher levels of THC “are unknown”; there could be an association of marijuana use with schizophrenia and car crashes; smoking during pregnancy could cause low infant birth weight; that though there are conditions where marijuana is useful as medication, outside of those conditions there’s no evidence of efficacy; cannabidiol is unregulated so it’s unknown what is in products claiming to contain CBD; and marijuana impairs judgment.

The debate over whether marijuana use causes schizophrenia — experts are divided — has gotten attention in the press lately because of a new book suggesting a link, “Tell Your Children” by Alex Berenson.

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Besides issuing public health advisories, the department is also issuing medical marijuana cards to approved users. As of mid-February, the number of cards issued stood at 7,126.

After the House committee killed the bill to expand the number of conditions that would qualify a patient for medical marijuana, Melissa Fults, a longtime medical marijuana advocate, said she plans to work to get a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for recreational use on the ballot in 2020.

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Until the Medical Marijuana Commission, which met Feb. 14, allowed NEA Full Spectrum Medicine dispensary to move from Rector (Clay County) to a location near Jonesboro, the Department of Finance and Administration was fielding daily complaints from callers about the lack of a medical marijuana dispensary in and near Jonesboro. Spokesman Scott Hardin said callers said it was too inconvenient to have to travel 70 miles to West Memphis, the closest city to Jonesboro where dispensaries have been approved. (There will be three in West Memphis.)

The Commission also approved address changes for Fiddler’s Green in Mountain View from 418 N. Bayou Drive to 16150 State Highway 9. A spokeswoman for Fiddler’s Green said internet service was lacking at the Bayou Drive address. It also gave approval to Grassroots OPCO to move from Ward in Lonoke County to 7303 Kanis Road in Little Rock, the former home of Joubert’s Tavern.

The Arkansas Times has been interviewing licensed dispensary owners on what sorts of products they’ll make available and when. Here’s a bit about several:

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Natural State Wellness is building its dispensary at 11201 Stagecoach Road in Little Rock. It has not set an opening date, but plans to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. It will offer 120-125 products — concentrates, flowers, edibles, vape pens and cannabidiol — supplied by Natural State Wellness Enterprises cultivators in Newport, spokesman Ben Kimbro said.

Alcohol Beverage Control Board investigators are looking into whether Natural State Capital LLC, a company owned by Wellness operators Harvest Dispensaries, Cultivations and Production Facilities LLC of Tempe, Ariz., should have disclosed on Wellness’ cultivation application that it was also an owner of the cultivation business. Kimbro said he was advised by the DFA that disclosure of Natural State Capital’s “operating stake” was not necessary. State law requires that all owners be listed on applications for licensure and that they be residents of Arkansas.

Natural Relief Dispensary is also going into new construction, at 3107 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood. CEO Michael Faught of Cabot, a disabled veteran and the majority owner, said he’s interested in how medical marijuana can help disabled veterans, though he has not yet applied for a medical marijuana card. Owners expect to open within five or six months after it gets a building license from Sherwood.

Acanza Health is renovating a storefront in the I-49 Business Center, at 2733 N. McConnell Ave., Fayetteville. Spokesman Michael Mayes, who is consulting with Acanza Health, said plans are to be open by the end of April or May. The majority owner of Acanza, Randy Hernandez (39.81 percent), is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked in cannabis cultivation and extraction in Maine, where cannabis is legal for recreational use. Acanza will require patients to scan the medical marijuana cards before entering a sales floor where products will be visible. Acanza is also a grow facility. To apply for a job at Acanza, email careers@quantum9.net with the subject line “Acanza.”

Northwest Arkansas Medical Cannabis Group will build a 7,500-square-foot dispensary at 3390 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Fayetteville. NWA Medical is also a grow dispensary, though co-owner Don Parker II said he was unsure how much cultivation the dispensary will do initially. Valentine Holdings LLC, which is doing business as NWA Medical, has an ownership stake in the Delta Medical Cannabis cultivation facility in Newport. The business is accepting resumes; send to Don Parker, Northwest Arkansas Medical Cannabis Group, P.O. Box 1733, Jonesboro.

Big Fish of North Central America, to be located at 1400 Heber Springs Road in Tumbling Shoals, hopes to open in the next few months. Josh Landers, who holds a 25 percent stake in the business (Dr. Regina Thurman of Fayetteville, who’s married to Razorback basketball great and assistant coach Scotty Thurman, is the majority owner at 55 percent), said he was motivated to open the dispensary in part because of his grandmother’s wasted condition as she was dying from pancreatic cancer.

Arkansas Medicinal Source Patient Center will occupy a renovated former liquor store at 406 Razorback Drive in Bentonville, and co-owner Erik Danielson said he hopes to be open May 1. AMSPC is a grow dispensary. Like Big Fish’s Landers, Danielson, a lawyer, said he has a friend suffering with cancer and he wants to get medical marijuana to patients like him.

The Releaf Center will be located in the former Big Red Gallery and Gifts at 9400 McNelly Road in Bentonville. CEO Roger Song said he hopes it will be open by midsummer. Releaf is a grow dispensary and will build its cultivation facility in a new building behind the main facility. Song said Relief would offer its extraction services to other dispensaries. He said the dispensary, in a barn-like building, would have a homey feeling: “It’s going to be like walking into your grandma’s house.”