BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Medical marijuana sales in the Natural State have topped more than $8 million.
It’s a fast-growing and unique industry that Arkansans are experiencing for the first time.
Thirty-two medical marijuana dispensaries are licensed to operate in Arkansas, including two in Bentonville and two in Fayetteville.
The state has licensed five cultivation centers for growing medical marijuana, and so far, three of the five cultivation centers are operating.
For David Meyers, it’s week three on the job working as a Patient Consultant for The Source, just off of South Walton Boulevard in Bentonville.
“There’s definitely a potential to make a career out of this. That’s what I’m hoping will happen for me,” he said. “We discuss with them what they are trying to accomplish, what their preferences are if they prefer something that’s going to make them more sleepy, something that deals with pain.”
In a two-week span, more than 850 people applied to be one of the 11 that work at The Source.
Applicants have to pass a criminal background check with fingerprints and send it to the state.
It’s a two to three week process to get cleared.
“We look for people that are motivated to get into the industry, have done their homework about the products that are sold, and general demeanor and attitude towards the position,” says Erik Danielson, co-owner of The Source.
From general manager to inventory, and compliance manager to budtender, Danielson says there’s a lot to be taught about pot.
“Anyone that’s worked retail and worked a point of sale system –that’s important,” Danielson said.
While this is Danielson’s first time opening a dispensary, others are bringing their experience to northwest Arkansas.
“I have a number of marijuana companies in Arizona and Colorado,”
says Buddy Wayne, Dispensary Superintendent at Releaf Center.
Product is harvested, packaged up at the cultivator, and delivered to dispensaries around the state. The average delivery time, Wayne says, is usually just one day.
“We pick everything and we try them. We ask our patients for reviews and they give us feedback,” he said.
Price margins are based on what it costs to acquire the products.
Wayne adds prices are also largely set by demand from consumers, and can go up and down depending on the day and sometimes even the hour.
With still very few suppliers, prices tend to be higher here than in other states.
“Arkansas has the highest prices in the continental United States, and we’ve worked hard at leading the way to reduce those prices,” Wayne said.
Despite this, it’s no secret Arkansans are ready to pay the price for medical pot.
At The Source, 165 people walk through the door each day, spending an average of $150 to $160 per transaction.
Security is on site at all times.
“We didn’t know what to expect when we opened, but it’s been a steady flow of people, some of which have traveled great distances to come here,” Danielson said.
With higher responsibility comes higher pay.
“Our team makes probably a little more on average that the average retail worker in the community, probably 20 or 30% more here. In part, because they receive tips,” Wayne said. “I think people would be surprised to know we use regular banks, regular payroll, a regular paycheck, we have direct deposit. You can come here and use a debit card.”
As the industry buds, so will the number of new hires.
Both dispensaries are looking to fill more positions.
Wayne says “we have experts that come in from out-of-state that did much of the teaching. We have pharmacists that come in and teach, and we have other people that teach our staff the science behind marijuana dispensing.”
A job in cannabis can now be a career in the Natural State.
“I love it. I’ve only been in it for a month now, but I see this being in my future for the rest of my life if they will have me,” says Kyle Atkins, a patient consultant at The Source.
All four licensed northwest Arkansas dispensaries will be able to grow the product.
Both Bentonville dispensaries say they plan to build cultivation facilities soon, and that will lower their prices.