Arkansas marijuana laws changed last month when the people voted to legalize medical marijuana. A 5 member Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission was appointed this week to be in charge of creating the rules and regulations for how the medical marijuana industry will operate in the state. The committee is also in charge of distributing anywhere between 4 and 8 cultivation facilities and between 20 and 40 distributors. There will be a maximum of 4 distribution sites allowed per county.
A Committee Composed of the Opposition
The elected officials appointed to the committee opposed the change in Arkansas marijuana laws when it was voted on last month. While they remain focused on respecting the will of Arkansas voters, it has been a strange adjustment for the officials involved. Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is a former member of the DEA, said “We were rather vocal in our opposition to the amendment, but the people spoke and it is our responsibility to take the steps necessary to implement in a fair and responsible way the amendment that was passed by the people of Arkansas.”
No Industry Representation
The members of the committee are made up of mostly medical professionals and include a pain specialist, a pharmacist, a former Senate chief, a lawyer and a breast cancer surgeon. There were talks of adding a law enforcement officer to the panel but it was decided that the other members were more relevant. David Couch, who sponsored the measure, was surprised that no one in business was appointed, as he believes the commission’s largest role will be in regulating the medical cannabis industry.
Setting Up Systems for Arkansas Marijuana Laws
Regardless of the committee’s feelings on the laws, they will have to get to work as soon as possible in order to meet the deadlines outlined by the new law. The amendment gives the committee only 4 months to create the rules that will regulate the industry, which means members must meet, discuss and make final decisions as quickly as possible. Hutchinson has stated that he’d like the panel to distribute the licenses on a lottery basis, for those who meet the minimum requirements necessary to apply. This is how the liquor permits are distributed in the state and he believes it will make the process an easier one.
The new Arkansas marijuana laws will be upheld, despite the reservations held by the governor and committee members. Arkansas is the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana and it may take officials a moment to wrap their heads around the change. Arkansas was 1 of 4 states that expanded their marijuana laws last month. 4 other states, including California and Nevada, also legalized recreational marijuana. Yet federal law has not yet budged as the DEA still continues to classify the plant as a Schedule 1 drug, considered to be the most dangerous alongside heroin, with no medicinal benefits. Despite this, over half of the country have legalized the plant for medicinal use and 1/5 have legalized it for recreational use. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission will have its first meeting within 15 days.