Hats off to Scott Liles, the courageous reporter from rural Baxter County, Arkansas (about 30 miles south and east of Branson, Missouri). Liles must have spent the past months locked in the basement at the Arkansas statehouse toiling away. This week, Liles’ paper, The Baxter Bulletin, posted two articles: one summarizing bills on their way to the governor and the other, a mammoth round up of the latest info on every single piece of Arkansas cannabis legislation. Fifty-one pieces in all.
All in all, the session has not been good for Arkansas cannabis, despite heartily voting to create a medical marijuana program just last November. Last week, Sen. Missy Irvin’s HB1556 and HB1402 passed through the state legislature and onto the governor. One forbids doctors from using “telemedicine” to certify patients. The other ties state scheduling of cannabis to federal law. These bills join HB1451 on the governor’s desk. That bill forbids members of the state National Guard from participating in the new medical program.
“It’s setting up that process to where, if somebody comes to work and their clearly impaired, they do not need to be operating a forklift or heavy equipment, things like that” —Republican Sen. Missy Irvin, sponsor of multiple anti-cannabis bills
The rest of bills that made it to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk Thursday are nothing to crow about. HB1369 sends cannabis tax revenue to the agencies that enforce the new laws. HB1436 creates an annual licensing structure for dispensaries and cultivation facilities and HB1584 establishes ownership succession rules for the industry. Two bills, HB1507, which provides for fines and penalties for the new industry, and, HB1519 codifies the language creating the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission, had to go back to the House for amendments.
Earlier in the month state senators failed to prohibit smoking in the new medical program, but then Friday March 17, the state House unanimously passed similar legislation, 88-0. Sponsor Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum claimed gutting smoking from the state’s medical marijuana program was necessary to bring the program in line with Federal Clean Air Act.
This summary, of course, covers but a fraction of the fifty plus bills reshaping Arkansas’ medical marijuana program even before it gets off the ground. For that list, we refer you back to the heroic Scott Liles and his compendium of pending Arkansas legislation, right here.
READ MORE: Titles, statuses of all medical marijuana bills by Scott Liles, The Baxter Bulletin
Two marijuana bills law, another headed to governor by Scott Liles, The Baxter Bulletin