What is medical marijuana? This is not an easy question to answer. The scientific research into the medical benefits of cannabis sativa or cannabis indica is limited, though there some evidence suggesting it is an effective treatment for pediatric seizures. It has, therefore, not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, though the FDA has approved anti-nausea drugs that contain chemicals derived from marijuana. However, research into its use in the treatment of many disorders is ongoing. Research focuses on how the cannabinoids, chemicals contained in marijuana, affect the body. There are more than 100 cannabinoids in marijuana; the mind-altering ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Another therapeutic cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), does not have psychotropic effects. The human body also produces cannabinoids. How did Arkansas’s medical marijuana law come about? Arkansans voted, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent, at the Nov. 9, 2016, general election to approve an amendment to the state Constitution that allowed the use of medical marijuana for 18 qualifying conditions. You can find a link to the amendment on the Arkansas Department of Health website. What are the qualifying conditions? Cancer; glaucoma; HIV/AIDs; hepatitis C; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Tourette’s syndrome; Chrone’s disease; ulcerative colitis; post-traumatic stress disorder; severe arthritis; fibromyalgia; Alzheimer’s disease; cachexia (wasting); peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain that has not responded to other medications, treatment or surgery for more than six months; severe nausea; seizures, such as those related to epilepsy; and severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis. The Department of Health may add to medical conditions to the list. How can someone legally obtain medical marijuana? People who wish to obtain a medical marijuana card must be least 18 years old and have a certification from a licensed Arkansas physician that they have been diagnosed with one or more of the qualifying conditions. (Parents or legal guardians will need to obtain cards to purchase medical marijuana for their children.) They must provide proof of residency, with a driver’s license or state ID card. The doctor certification must be submitted to the state health department, which will issue a registry card, good for one year, to qualifying patients. The fee to apply for a card is $50. Renewal fee is $50. Can my caregiver obtain medical marijuana for me? Yes. Caregivers, who must be at least 21 years old and may include parents, may deliver medical marijuana to a cardholder. Persons who have committed felonies may not deliver medical marijuana. Caregivers must register with the Department of Health. Caregivers must also pay a $50 fee to apply for a card as well as $37 for criminal background checks. Who cannot legally obtain medical marijuana? Members of the Arkansas National Guard or the U.S. military. When will medical marijuana be available to the public? The state Medical Marijuana Commission is reviewing applications from cultivators and those would operate dispensaries. (The deadline to apply for such licenses was Sept. 18.) It may be several months into 2018 before those licenses are awarded. Once the cultivators are licensed, they may begin to grow cannabis; it takes between three and five months to grow a mature plant, which then must be dried. That would put availability at fall 2018. Where will it be available? The commission will grant licenses to four dispensaries in each of 8 zones in Arkansas, for a total of 32 dispensaries. How much can I buy? Buyers will be limited to no more than 2½ ounces of medical marijuana during any 14-day period. The dispensary is required to make sure that the amount requested by patients does not exceed the weight and time limits. How do I know what to buy for my qualifying illness? Dispensary staff will be trained to know what cannabis products are appropriate, and dispensaries are also required to have a licensed pharmacist with whom to consult. Products containing THC are generally used for pain; those containing CBD are generally used for anxiety. The dispensary will need to know a little bit about the buyer outside their main complaint: For example, a patient with peripheral neuropathy who also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should not purchase an inhalant. On the other hand, an inhalant may be best for someone who’s never used medical marijuana (and does not have COPD): It works faster and wears off faster, so the patient can test for tolerance and efficacy. What’s it going to cost? That will depend on how long the plant takes to grow, its quality, what form it’s sold in and so forth. Medical marijuana is sold by the gram, ounce, bud, drops, in food. In Colorado, where competition is strong, an ounce goes for $100. Here, to beat the black market prices, an ounce — which is a lot of marijuana — could cost as much as $250 or more. Can I buy with a credit or debit card? A bank will have to agree to allow dispensaries to create accounts and a company that will process credit cards for deposit into those accounts will have to be found before purchases can put their purchases on a card. A statewide bank is said to be interested, but is waiting to announce that until licenses for dispensaries and growers have been issued. Can I grow my own? No. Can I be fired from my job for having a certification card for the purchase of medical marijuana? No. Under Act 593 of 2017, employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees for the status as a legal user of medical marijuana. Can I be fired for using medical marijuana at work? Persons who work in jobs where safety is paramount, such as police officers, emergency medical technicians, persons who work with hazardous materials or operate heavy machinery and so forth may be prohibited from using on the job. The medical marijuana law does not, however, require employers to make accommodations so employees may use the drug, and users may still find themselves in trouble if they come to work under the influence or use on the job.