Residents of Arkansas are one step closer to getting legal access to medical marijuana.
In 2016, voters amended the state Constitution to allow patients there to use cannabis to treat certain ailments. The amendment allowed the state to create a Medical Marijuana Commission, and several residents applied for and received ID cards that would allow them to buy it. But the part of the law that allowed the state to give licenses to growers got tied up in the courts.
There were more than 80 applications from businesses that wanted to legally grow cannabis in the state. In February, the Medical Marijuana Commission decided to grant five licenses to the companies that had the top scores according to the law, but one of the competitors that did not get the nod sued, arguing that the license process was unfair. That effort was a success, and the process came to a halt.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled that a lower court didn’t have the authority to stop the licensing process.
With this decision, the state should be able to grant the growers licenses, and patients who qualify should be able to make legal purchases this year. Arkansas patients who qualify include those with cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Medical marijuana is legal in some form in 22 additional states, while 14 others allow the sales of a lesser medical marijuana extract. Nine states allow for recreational sales.
Medical marijuana has nearly universal support in the United States, according to an August poll from Quinnipiac University. An overwhelming 94% of adults — 96% of independents, 95% of Democrats and 90% of Republicans — support it.
The number of states where patients will be able to get access to cannabis may soon change again.
While the Trump administration promises to roll back Obama-era medical marijuana reforms that leave states to make their own decisions about the drug, a handful of states will probably vote on the matter this fall.
Voters in conservative Oklahoma will consider a medial marijuana ballot initiative on Tuesday.