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Rx fees: a range

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Under Arkansas's new medical marijuana program, doctors do not prescribe cannabis. Instead, they certify that patients have one or more of the 18 medical conditions that allow them to seek a medical marijuana card from the state Department of Health.

To date, at least 21 doctors have agreed to sign the Physician Written Certification required by the state. They will be found on the cannabiz.arktimes.com website that goes live this week. The list will be updated as more physicians come forward with their decision to certify patients for medical marijuana.

The small number of doctors may have created a micro-market of weed-friendly doctors. They have set various prices for certification — which is nonreimbursable by insurance.

The Arkansas Times compiled a list of prices from doctors and websites (not all doctors returned our calls). The cheapest was Fort Smith Medical (www.MarijuanaDoctorOfArkansas.com), which charges $120 for the initial visit to be certified. (Patients must be recertified on a yearly basis at least.) Doctors charging $150 include the Medical Canna Clinic of Springdale (according to its website), Dr. Lance Hamilton of Bentonville, Dr. Ivy McGee of Benton and the Evergreen Clinic of Sheridan.

Also on the low end is Dr. Larry Mabry of Springdale, who is charging $180. Mabry told the Arkansas Times that he's trying to pave a "middle road" with pricing. Mabry will often chat with patients who call in for an appointment to make sure they qualify before they come in and get charged for the visit.

For patients, it'd be smart to follow Mabry's lead: Find the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis at www.healthyarkansas.com.

Though based in Benton, McGee, who is working in partnership with the company A Medicinal Purpose (amedicinalpurpose.org), plans to travel throughout the state to see medical marijuana patients, spokeswoman Tausha Dyer said.

Here are some other fees provided to the Times, from low to high:

Dr. William Piechal of Fayetteville, $150 for established patients ($250 for new patients)

Dr. David A. Diffine of Paragould and Blytheville, $200.

Dr. Archie Hearne of Little Rock, $200.

My Medical Card Compassionate Care Clinic in Hot Springs, $200.

Dr. Dane Flippin of Jonesboro, $250.

Dr. George Covert of Ashdown, $250.

Dr. Roger Tilley of Benton, $250.

Dr. Jeremy Grant of El Dorado, $250.

Dr. Joseph Tucker of Texarkana, $275.

Dr. Barry V. Thomas of Crossett, $285.

Dr. Tammy Post of Bentonville, $287

Dr. John House of Eureka Springs will only see established patients and will charge as he does for a regular office visit.

After obtaining the certification, those who apply for a medical marijuana card will be charged $50 by the state.

Danny Ford, Razorback football coach from 1993 to 1997 and coach of the Clemson Tigers for 10 years prior to that, has received one of the first permits to grow industrial hemp in South Carolina. The permit allows Ford to grow up to 20 acres of hemp, but he plans to plant 16 acres on his 174-acre cattle, hay and wheat farm, according to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina issued 20 permits; growers are required to work with state research universities to develop hemp products and must have a contract with a buyer. Industrial hemp has many dozens of uses, from clothing to fuel.

"There are still a lot of questions," The State quotes Ford as saying. "We're liable to lose everything we do this year. But we're taking it slow. And if it works it can help all the farmers in the state."

The 2017 Arkansas Legislature created the Arkansas Industrial Hemp Program, which includes a 10-year research program.

Cannabis bars and lounges — "budpubs" — of the kinds seen in Colorado and California will apparently not be allowed in Arkansas thanks to Alcohol Beverage Control regulations that prohibit consumption in dispensaries and say that members of the public are not allowed in cultivation areas.

ABC Director Mary Casteel released a statement that "It is definitely not contemplated that [cultivation areas] may be open to the public or patients to offer samplings like wineries or breweries. They are only authorized to sell products to dispensaries and they are prohibited from advertising and marketing their products to the public."

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