Arkansas busi­ness con­ven­tion goes to pot

Mar­i­juana-tied en­trepreneurs stop in LR ahead of new law

El Dorado News-Times - - Business - Stephen Steed Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette

Two ta­bles of bongs, pipes and other mar­i­juana para­pher­na­lia drew a steady line of cu­ri­ous con­sumers Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the State­house Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock.

“Do you smoke mar­i­juana? What’s your favorite way to smoke it?” Marc Wein of Mama P’s Whole­some Grind­ing Co. in Spice­wood, Texas, asked nearly ev­ery per­son fil­ing by his booth dur­ing the open­ing hours of Arkansas’ first con­ven­tion ded­i­cated to med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

“We’re a 12-time win­ner of High Times’ Cannabis Cup for smok­ing ac­ces­sories and the only truly Amer­i­can­made ac­ces­sory man­u­fac­turer in the U.S.,” the tie-dye-wear­ing Wein added in a rapid-fire burst of words.

Across the con­ven­tion hall, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ed­i­bles magazine touted the pub­li­ca­tion along with an as­sort­ment of cannabis-re­lated gummy rings and trail mix while two Con­way men nearby so­licited mem­bers for their newly formed Arkansas Hemp As­so­ci­a­tion.

Those ven­dors joined about four dozen oth­ers as part of the Ark-La-Tex Cannabis Busi­ness Expo. The Arkansas Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion is spon­sor­ing the two-day event to bring busi­nesses and po­ten­tial con­sumers to­gether as the state edges closer to im­ple­ment­ing a med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pro­gram ap­proved by vot­ers in No­vem­ber 2016.

Un­der the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Amend­ment, the state will li­cense 32 dis­pen­saries and five cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The five cul­ti­va­tors — out of 95 ap­pli­cants — will be an­nounced Feb. 27. The state re­ceived 227 ap­pli­ca­tions for the dis­pen­saries, and the win­ners of those li­censes likely won’t be an­nounced un­til late April.

Some two dozen speak­ers were lined up by the event’s or­ga­nizer, Im­pe­ri­ous Expo of Tyler, Texas, to speak in­di­vid­u­ally or as part of guest pan­els on such topics as high-tech se­cu­rity for cul­ti­va­tors and dis­pen­saries; mar­ket­ing; cannabis re­search, and the lat­est on fed­eral laws’ clash with the 29 states that have ap­proved med­i­cal mar­i­juana, recre­ational mar­i­juana or both.

The con­ven­tion ends to­day about 5 p.m.

Back at Mama P’s, Jody Hardin of Hardin Farms in Lin­coln County, stepped up to make a pur­chase but lamented that he lacked $25 in cash.

“We take cards,’’ Wein replied, mak­ing the sale. Hardin said he will be the “head grower” for Clin­ice, a Fayet­teville con­sor­tium of in­vestors, if the group’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­ity is ap­proved.

Hardin said he’s al­ways been a sup­porter of the “free­dom to farm,” in­clud­ing mar­i­juana and any­thing else a farmer wants to grow. “This is a spe­cial is­sue to me, to farm and to help peo­ple who are helped by med­i­cal mar­i­juana,” Hardin said.

“I don’t want to see cor­po­rate gi­ants get­ting a mo­nop­oly [on cul­ti­va­tion],” he said, while ac­knowl­edg­ing that his group has some fairly deep pock­ets, too.

A few booths down, Kyle Felling of Green­brier touted his com­pany, F.A.S.T. Lab­o­ra­to­ries/Re­search, as way to help as­sure med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pa­tients they’re get­ting the qual­ity they paid for.

To gear up for the nascent med­i­cal-mar­i­juana trade in Arkansas, Felling said, he re­cently made trips to sev­eral “head shops” in cen­tral Arkansas, buy­ing up var­i­ous cannabis-based oint­ments and oils. Back at his Green-brier lab, he tested whether the prod­ucts’ la­bels matched up with their ac­tual lev­els of tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC), the cannabis com­pound that pro­vides the “high” within mar­i­juana, or cannabid­iol (CBD), a com­pound with medic­i­nal ef­fects with­out the phys­i­cal ef­fects.

“I just wanted to hash our process and get pre­pared for what’s com­ing in the next few months,” Felling said, adding he’s hop­ing to win con­tracts with grow­ers for his tests of their plants.

Of about 50 tests, he found eight prod­ucts that had no cannabid­iol at all. “Peo­ple were pay­ing up to $50 for small bot­tles of veg­etable oil, pretty much,” Felling said. Sev­eral oth­ers fell short by 25 per­cent to 50 per­cent.

He in­formed the re­tail out­lets of his test re­sults by email. Some didn’t re­spond. “Some were gen­uinely con­cerned that they weren’t get­ting a good prod­uct,” he said.

Around the cor­ner, Jon Work­man of Eng­land, in Lonoke County, was man­ning a booth for Amer­i­can Cannabis Co., a con­sult­ing firm in Den­ver founded by a high school class­mate. The com­pany will have an of­fice in Arkansas.

Work­man, 54, was di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple myeloma, and doc­tors gave him three years to live. That was 19 years ago.

While mar­i­juana didn’t ex­actly save his life, it made him less nau­se­ated and gave him an ap­petite. Now, med­i­cal mar­i­juana has given Work­man, who un­til last year worked at the all-but-closed South­wind Milling Co. in Pine Bluff, a sec­ond ca­reer as well.

“I’m look­ing around here, think­ing is this re­ally le­gal?” Work­man said, ges­tur­ing with a smile at nearby booths with signs like Weed Man­age­ment, Ounce magazine and The Cannabis Mar­ket­ing Lab. “And I know that it’s not just le­gal, but it’s re­ally go­ing to help peo­ple. It’s a life-chang­ing event.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.