BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Northwest Arkansas’ second medical marijuana dispensary will open Thursday, but like all other dispensaries, you can’t go in and shop unless you have one of two cards.
“Once the medical marijuana is received by the dispensary, at that point, and moving forward, the only people allowed in the dispensary are those with patient cards and people with a designated caregiver card,” said Scott Hardin, spokesman for Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and the Medical Marijuana Commission.
The Source, Bentonville’s second medical marijuana dispensary after The ReLeaf Center, opens Thursday.
Medical marijuana cards are formally known as registry identification cards, according to Buddy Wayne, dispensary superintendent for The ReLeaf Center.
The restriction on who can come into a medical marijuana dispensary is in place to ensure that only the patient receives medical marijuana or has access to it.
“Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Amendment is very specific not only in the intent of the product, but the overall exposure to it,” Hardin said. “If you look at the rules and regulations surrounding dispensaries, there are numerous security requirements that ensure the product remains in the right hands.”
Hardin said every square foot of a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation center must be under video surveillance.
ABC and the Medical Marijuana Commission has received numerous questions on who can enter a medical marijuana dispensary, according to Hardin.
“Obviously family members may want to accompany their patient inside the facility. However, that’s only possible if that individual is a designated caregiver. It is expected that each facility closely monitors this,” Hardin said.
Sometimes people come to The ReLeaf Center without a medical marijuana card or a designated caregiver card.
“We try to handle these situations quite gently. We have [private security] officers outside who ask people if they have the correct state card. If they don’t have the card, they are politely asked to contact their physician about obtaining a card,” Wayne said.
Sometimes a medical marijuana card is not recognized by the state’s database that employees must run the card through before selling medical marijuana. Such issues can result from a variety of factors, including an address change, according to Wayne.
“We’ve had thousands of people visit The ReLeaf Center so far, but an overwhelming majority have not had any issues,” Wayne said. “On rare occasions people do have a card that doesn’t work through the state system. We have to verify the card though a state system. We check the validity of every card, that is done by a second officer.”
Customers are not the only ones who must have the right card to be in a medical marijuana dispensary.
Medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation center employees must also have a registry identification card, which is provided by ABC, according to Hardin.
“Prior to employment, each employee must pass a background check through ABC, followed by some additional steps. After that, they receive a registry identification card,” Hardin said.
The background check on medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation center employees is comparable to background checks conducted by other employers, but a medical marijuana dispensary job candidate is automatically disqualified if she has a prior felony drug conviction, according to Hardin.
“As the dispensary is considering making a hire, they would provide the prospective employee’s name and allow us to do a background check,” Hardin said.
The process of checking a prospective employee’s background and getting her the registry identification card is fairly quick, Hardin said.
“In the matter of a week we can have the card issued,” Hardin said.