SPECIAL REPORT: The Big Business of Medical Marijuana

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The big business of medical marijuana in Arkansas is set to take off in the not-too-distant future.

“It’s an up and coming industry,” said Travis Story with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.

“We’ll be studying this in economics for years,” said Gregory Duran, the President of the Cannabis Patients Alliance.

It’s been a year since Arkansas voters gave the thumbs up to prescription pot. Still in its infancy, the industry’s impact on the Natural State’s bottom line has yet to be felt.

“Every day in the Cannabis business is kind of a question mark,” said Adam Grimmett, the Vice-President of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association.

So what can we forecast for when the buds start blooming?

“We don’t have statistics to bare, but we can go off other states with similar population and demographic count,” said Brian Faught, who is applying for a cultivation and dispensary license.

Those with their hands in the pot look to the 28 other states and Washington D.C., which have also legalized medical cannabis.

Among those states, Nevada is similar to Arkansas in both size and population, so it offers a comparable snapshot of economic impact.

Based on what the Silver State pulls in each year, the Department of Finance and Administration expects Arkansas to have sales that exceed $38 million dollars annually.

“The money is there,” Duran said.

So far, 95 cultivation and 228 dispensary applications have been submitted to the eight zones in the state. But only five cultivation facilities and 32 dispensary owners will be chosen to cash in on the crop.

“I was interested in the business opportunity first, I am a businessman first,” Faught said.

Faught hopes to blaze a trail in Arkansas. He’s put in an application to run a cultivation facility and a dispensary.

“It is like any other business, you have to know how to run a business,” Faught said.

That means he’s invested a lot of sweat equity and financial capital to become an early adopter.

“My partner and I are about a half-million dollars in right now before we ever even get a license,” Faught said.

If Faught gets approved to open a cultivation facility, there’s really no telling how much he stands to make. Annual projections show a cultivator could rake in around $200,000 in the first year of business. By year three, a cultivation facility in Arkansas can pull in well over $17 million dollars.

It’s not just the applicants that could be seeing more green.

“Labs, chemists, botanists, construction people, people putting up greenhouses will all be put to work. We have to look at this as a big picture,” Duran said.

“We will have a substantial impact on jobs for Arkansans,” Story said.

Travis Story with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission says cannabis companies will create thousands of jobs to support the multi-million dollar industry. There will be a need for electricians to grow plants, transportation to ship the products, and security to keep the goods from getting into the wrong hands. That’s only to name a few.

While it’s still uncharted territory, medical marijuana will be here soon. And it’s economic impact will be huge for the state. Now, it’s just time to get used to the idea of it growing in your neck of the woods.

“I want people to see the face of medical marijuana! It is professional business people, growing a pharmaceutical grade product, in pharmaceutical grade conditions,” Faught said.

While this industry does have massive monetary potential, advocates say the proven healing benefits are what drives this movement. Those suffering from debilitating medical conditions can apply for a card with the Arkansas Department of Health.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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