By: Cliff Thomas – Arkansas Dispensaries & Doctors Contributing Author
In a unanimous decision, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted to delay a voter-approved measure to make medical marijuana available for legal use by sixty days.
The constitutional amendment approved by voters during the recent November elections gave a 120-day deadline for the implementation of various measures pertaining to the measure’s approval, such as granting licenses to dispensaries and cultivators of medical marijuana, as well as having provisions for such businesses set by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration.
Now, that deadline is 180 days after the measure’s November 8th passage. The program start date has been delayed from June 1st to July 1st as well. Four states voted in favor for the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana on November 8th: California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine. These states joined Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon as states where the recreational use of marijuana is already legal.
Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, authored House Bill 1026, which was approved 91-0. House, who opposed the amendment, argued that the bill was necessary to allow various agencies more time to better prepare for the new law’s implementation.
This is not the only bill in the Arkansas legislature regarding the medical marijuana law. HB 1058 was also approved, albeit not unanimously, with a 70-23 approval. Under HB 1058, doctors encouraging or prescribing medical marijuana would not be required to tell patients that medical marijuana’s negative effects are outweighed by its positive effects.
HB 1058 would also change medical record-keeping when it comes to medical marijuana. Under the bill, information submitted in order to acquire medical marijuana would not qualify as part of a medical record and therefore not be subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act under federal law.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, voted against the amendment but is opposed to the provision in HB 1058 regarding doctors not having to tell patients about the benefits of medical marijuana outweighing the downsides.
“We do need to carry out the will of the people, but one thing that I don’t think that we can do is come in and make the judgment now to say, ‘Hey that’s going to be really hard to do so we need to remove this one safeguard that was put in there,'” Ballinger said.
Both bills are now set to go to the Senate, where they will require a two-thirds vote of approval in order to be implemented. Even with the seemingly short delay time, the effects of such a delay could be substantial. Beneficiaries who would benefit greatly from medical marijuana for various ailments could find their conditions worsen severely between now and the end of the delay.
Potential revenue from allowing medical marijuana could be lost or not be obtained at a previously forecasted rate due to the delay. This delay could also allow more laws to be introduced into the Arkansas legislature that make it even more difficult for medical marijuana to be obtained.
Our country as whole is definitely more progressive as it once was, as the legalization on marijuana is becoming more and more accepted in this country. As more and more states are putting it on the ballot, it should only be only a matter of time before we see a majority of states be “green-friendly.”