Voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment in November, and this year’s General Assembly session has seen a multitude of medical marijuana related bills – 17 of which have recently been approved by both the Senate and the House. In order for these bills to pass and make changes to the constitutional amendment that voters approved, they must have received at least two thirds of the vote in both chambers – and most of the bills have been aimed at preparing regulations that will be important as the state rolls out their new program.
One of the bills that was signed into law started as an extremely unpopular bill that would have banned smoking medical cannabis – but now it only bans smoking cannabis by those under the age of 21, as well as anywhere tobacco smoking is banned, in the presence of minors under the age of 14 years old, or in the presence of pregnant women or anyone else where the “smoke might cause the second person to be under the influence”. So while it no longer outright bans the smoking of medical cannabis it does place a lot of restrictions around it.
Another bill gives the Marijuana Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division the authority to regulate specific “shapes and colors” in which edibles can be made as well as advertising and artwork, in an effort to ensure that it doesn’t appeal to children and that they are packaged in child-resistant packaging. A second bill addressing edibles – which is still awaiting the governor’s signature – makes 10mg of THC the maximum for a “single dose” edible, which is in line with the current limit for edibles on the recreational cannabis market in Colorado.
Other bills that were passed by legislature and recently signed into law include one that requires that that all tax revenue first goes to pay back the state for the start-up costs of the program (and allocates all additional funds to the state’s general fund) and removes a requirement that the funds be used for vocational and technical education training. There is also a bill that puts the oversight of the Marijuana Commission under the Department of Finance and Administration, and the enforcement of regulations to the Alcohol Beverage Control Division.
The remaining bills that were either signed into law or await signature deal primarily with the structure of licensing – including one that determines that background checks for license applicants will be conducted by the Arkansas State Police and the FBI, one that specifies that all marijuana licenses will expire on June 30th each year, one that allows the Marijuana Commission to decide if a felony disqualifies someone from obtaining a license, and one that gives the state the right to collect fines when businesses don’t comply with state laws. These don’t make many big changes, but rather give the new program more structure than it had at first – and hopefully any other bills that pass will change as little as possible of what the voters originally approved.