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US (AR): River Valley Relief cultivation facility battles scarcity of popular strains

"We want to grow high-quality medical cannabis and be able to make it affordable for a lot of people. Since insurance doesn't help cover this cost, it can be a challenge for a lot of people. Our family was hit hard by the opioid epidemic, like a lot of other Arkansas families, and so this is one reason why we're so passionate about it: we know this product can help people," said River Valley Relief owner, Storm Nolan.

He explains that access to popular strains and products are hard to come by in Arkansas, "but now that we have that additional cultivator coming online, it's only going to help the market. When we talk to patients in the state, there's a bit of frustration; people cross the state line to Oklahoma and say, well, Oklahoma has literally thousands of dispensaries. Arkansas is limited. Even if we wanted to have thousands, we're limited constitutionally to 40 maximum," said Scott Hardin with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and spokesperson for the Medical Marijuana Commission.

Options are limited for medical cannabis patients in the River Valley. Currently, there is only one medical cannabis dispensary in Fort Smith. Northwest Arkansas has five dispensaries. The MMC approved a dispensary that is set to open near the beginning of the year.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, there are nearly 79,000 medical cannabis patients across the state. Hardin said more than 60,000 pounds of medical cannabis have been sold in Arkansas, and that nearly a third of it has been purchased at dispensaries in Northwest Arkansas.

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