Only handful of doctors conducting medical marijuana evaluations in Arkansas

WATCH: Only handful of doctors conducting medical marijuana evaluations in Arkansas

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Even as more medical marijuana dispensaries open up across Arkansas, not many doctors are conducting medical marijuana evaluations.

Those evaluations are part of the process for patients to get their medical marijuana card in the state.

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FOX13 learned of at least one doctor in West Memphis who began medical marijuana evaluations this year.

In the small waiting room of his West Memphis office, which is usually occupied by a few potential patients, Dr. James Miller sat down to talk about medical marijuana.

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“You can take [your patients] off of benzodiazepines and move them to the effect of marijuana,” said Miller.

Miller has been a licensed physician in the Natural State for most of the past 40 years.

Before this year, prescribing prescription pills for pain management was the norm.

Now, Miller hopes it’s in the past.

“We have slowly begun to move those patients in this category of diagnosis for medical marijuana,” said Miller.

Why medical marijuana?

Well, Miller said he became concerned in recent years with opioid addiction.

“If not controlled in some manner properly – in medical dispensation – if not properly done, [opioid] could effectively destroy a culture,” said Miller.

Miller is one of only a handful of doctors across the state currently accepting medical marijuana evaluations.

According to the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association's website, there are currently at least 22 doctors writing certifications for medical cannabis.

Miller is not listed on this website.

The West Memphis physician said he, eventually, aspires of phasing out prescribing pain pills for all of his patients who qualify under the nearly 20 categories for medical marijuana.

Miller said in an interview Friday that one patient was approved for their medical marijuana card and he began evaluations for six to 12 patients.

Prescribing opioids has been a controversial topic. FOX13 Investigates discovered Miller was once included in that controversy.

FOX13 found his license had been suspended twice related to prescription pills, but he earned his license back from the state.

We are working to find more details surrounding what caused that suspension.