Patients are still months away from access to medical marijuana, but some of the laws that go into effect Tuesday affect the dispensaries and cultivation facilities that will provide the drug.
Fifty-one medical marijuana-related bills were filed in this year’s regular legislative session, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette analysis. Twenty-five became law. Four have already gone into effect. The remaining 21 go into effect Tuesday.
However, some local governments are having the largest effect on future medical-marijuana availability by issuing temporary bans against dispensaries and cultivators, said David Couch, the Little Rock-based lawyer who sponsored the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.
“It’s a violation of the constitutional amendment, and they’re doing it, I think, solely to intimidate people who are considering applying for a cultivation facility or dispensary,” Couch said. He added that he is considering filing lawsuits.
The Benton City Council approved a 90-day moratorium on dispensaries and cultivators Monday. The Hot Springs Board of Directors adopted a similar moratorium in June but then lifted it in July. The Siloam Springs Board of Directors adopted a 180-day moratorium in June.
Benton Mayor David Mattingly said in an interview that the goal of the moratorium is to take the time to responsibly implement the requirements of the medical-marijuana Amendment.
“Benton is no different than many other municipalities,” he said. “We’re trying to learn and understand the responsibilities based on the new law. How do you deal with dispensaries, the growth farms and so on?”
Mattingly said city officials — including some in the Police Department — have been watching the state’s implementation process, and need to sort out details related to zoning requirements and other city functions.
One person has inquired about opening a facility in the city, he said.