In Arkansas, where a medical marijuana amendment was approved by voters in the November 2016 election, lawmakers have just passed the first two bills related to the new medical marijuana laws – one that will push back the deadline for having regulations put in place by an additional 60 days and another that removes a requirement that physicians declare that the benefits of using medical marijuana outweigh the risks.
House Bill 1026 and 1058 were both introduced by Representative Doug House. The first of these bills was introduced with the intention of allowing more time for regulations to be put into place, which is unfortunately rather common when lawmakers have legalization forced on them. The second bill removes the line of the amendment that requires doctors to say that the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks to the patient, which many physicians said they were not comfortable with. By removing this line, House Bill 1058 will ensure that doctors are comfortable enough to actually recommend medical marijuana – otherwise it might have been much more difficult to get a recommendation.
Most of the issues surrounding both pieces of legislation were not actually about the bills themselves, but more about lawmakers being uncertain about passing a law that is, technically, a violation of federal law. However, while there were a handful of people who decided not to vote for the bill at all, or to vote against it because of this, the majority in both the House and the Senate decided to pursue the will of the voters and passed both pieces of legislation.
“I would suggest for us to be consistent, we ought to follow the will of the people until the federal government tells us otherwise,” Senator Jeremy Hutchinson said.
Along with removing the line about physician’s recommendations, House Bill 1058 also determined that a person’s application for a medical marijuana registry card would not be considered a “medical record” – however, it will still be confidential. Both bills were signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday, almost immediately after being passed by the House and Senate. Hopefully the short 60 day delay will give those determining the regulations for the industry enough time to get things in order and medical marijuana access won’t be too far out of patients’ reach by midway through this year.