Arkansas medical marijuana dispensaries are experiencing a shortage of the flower form of the product and a spokesman for Alcoholic Beverage Control said the agency is looking into the supply issue.
The number of medical marijuana patients in the state has surged past 80,000. The state has only four cultivators in operation, and dispensaries report having trouble getting some strains entirely. The supply of other products, such as tinctures, vape cartridges and edibles, is sufficient, dispensary owners say.
“As of now, what we know is there have been shortages across the state of specific strains,” spokesman Scott Hardin said. “We have not seen any dispensaries that are totally out of product altogether. Typically, [the strain issues] have been resolved in a brief period of time.”
Fort Cannabis Co. in Fort Smith has run out of flower on a couple of occasions but the supply has generally been replenished within a day, according to Fort Cannabis General Manager Jordan Mooney.
“It’s never too long, like days at a time, or anything like that,” Mooney said. Sales of flower, however, account for the majority of its business, Mooney said.
Plant Family Therapeutics of Mountain Home reported on Facebook on July 20 that the dispensary had run out of flower.
“Due to complications the state’s cultivators are experiencing, we have a shortage of flower through Wednesday morning,” the post said. “We still have a selection of concentrates, edibles and topicals with a full supply.” The dispensary reported that the supply was replenished the next day.
“A big THANK YOU to Osage Creek Cultivation!” the dispensary posted July 21. “We received a delivery from them last night and will be back to normal today.”
Bloom Medicinals of Texarkana has experienced shortages for about two months and says dispensaries are limited in how much product they are allowed to order from the cultivators.
“We’re kind of on a cap,” Bloom General Manager Melissa Authement said. “Each cultivator is only allowing a certain allotment for us each week. So, we might get one pound from one of them and three pounds from another and that’s all we get. So, if we run out, we run out.”
Greenlight Dispensary in Helena-West Helena has experienced the supply crunch for about two months and is ordering just 3-5 pounds of flower from cultivators rather than the 10-15 pounds it had been able to order previously.
“Right now, there are not enough cultivators producing enough product to keep up,” said Greenlight budtender Taylor Perkins, who places the dispensary’s weekly orders. “We’re not able to get enough flower in at one time as we need.”
Four of the first five licensed cultivators are operating, and three of them provide the bulk of the inventory in the state: Bold Team in Cotton Plant, Osage Creek Cultivation in Berryville and Natural State Medicinals in Jefferson County. Delta Medical in Newport is also operating and selling to dispensaries. Natural State Wellness, also in Newport, is growing but not yet selling to dispensaries.
Bold Team and Osage Creek did not respond to a request for comment.
In June, the Medical Marijuana Commission addressed supply concerns of dispensaries by licensing three more cultivators; those growers say they’ll have medical marijuana on the market in 2021. Hardin says it will be hard to know exactly where the state’s production stands until all eight licensed cultivators and all 37 licensed dispensaries are in operation. Twenty-four dispensaries are open for business.
“We are certainly concerned in that we want to know if there is a legitimate product shortage,” Hardin said. “We are really looking down the road to see, if we have eight [cultivators] and 37 [dispensaries], what is that going to look like? That’s when we are going to see the overall health of this industry in the state.”
While ABC can look into the shortage issues, the state has no authority to compel cultivators to produce more or less product under the state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2016. The state also cannot license more cultivation facilities, since the amendment sets the maximum at eight.
“There’s really no limit to the amount of product a cultivator can produce, or there’s no minimum they must grow,” Hardin said.
The state’s tracking software does not track sales by cultivator. State law prohibits the Department of Finance and Administration from providing information on tax revenue or sales generated by each cultivator. Because of that, Hardin said, “We do not have a system through which we can pull and report cultivation details.”
Since May 2019, Arkansas dispensaries have sold more than 24,000 pounds of marijuana for more than $154 million.
Not all dispensaries have experienced shortages. 420 Dispensary in Russellville reported having no issues with shortages and Purspirit Cannabis Co. in Fayetteville reported having few issues with supply.
“We’ll run tight on certain things, but it’s sort of an ebb and flow,” said Makenna Brennan, manager at Purspirit.
Even if the flower supply were short, Purspirit has plenty of other products available, she said.
“I have a vault full of gummies and tinctures and concentrates and vape cards and other alternative methods to deliver cannabis to patients,” Brennan said. “A lot of people just prefer flower because it’s what they’ve known.”