Med­i­cal pot plan in state pro­gresses

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRIAN FANNEY

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the voter-ap­proved Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Amend­ment is mov­ing for­ward de­spite a com­ment from a White House of­fi­cial greater en­force­ment of fed­eral laws is pos­si­ble.

To­day be­gins the of­fi­cial com­ment pe­riod for rules de­vel­oped by the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Com­mis­sion.

In a re­mark Thurs­day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer noted the ad­min­is­tra­tion may dis­tin­guish be­tween med­i­cal and recre­ational use of the drug, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports.

“I do be­lieve you’ll see greater en­force­ment of it,” Spicer said at a news con­fer­ence. “Be­cause again there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween the med­i­cal use … that’s very dif­fer­ent than the recre­ational use, which is some­thing the Depart­ment of Jus­tice will be fur­ther look­ing into.”

The news is not chang­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion plans in Arkansas, said J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchin­son.

“Arkansans passed med­i­cal mar­i­juana, and the Gov­er­nor’s state­ments since re­main the same,” Davis said.

Hutchin­son, a for­mer head of the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion, didn’t sup­port the Arkansas amend­ment but has said he re­spects the will of vot­ers and will im­ple­ment med­i­cal mar­i­juana in Arkansas.

How­ever, he has said if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment mod­i­fied its guid­ance, the

state would need to change its plans. Mar­i­juana is illegal un­der fed­eral law, but then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama di­rected the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to leave mar­i­juana de­ci­sions to the states.

Hutchin­son this month called on Congress to ad­dress the con­tra­dic­tion.

“I don’t like the idea of im­ple­ment­ing laws in Arkansas that vi­o­late fed­eral law,” he said. “That is a given. That’s where we are. And that’s not a good po­si­tion to be in.”

Spicer’s com­ments on Thurs­day are in line with past state­ments from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. In at least one in­ter­view, the Repub­li­can said he sup­ported med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

“I’m in fa­vor of it 100 per­cent,” Trump said in Fe­bru­ary 2016. “I know peo­ple that have se­ri­ous prob­lems and they did that, they re­ally — it re­ally does help them.”

Trump also said recre­ational mar­i­juana use in Colorado is “caus­ing a lot of prob­lems out there,” but said “the book isn’t writ­ten on it yet.”

The Arkansas Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion said Fri­day it would take com­ments about the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Com­mis­sion’s rules at MMCAd­min@ dfa.arkansas.gov.

The com­mis­sion’s rules fo­cus on how dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties are li­censed and the fees they will have to pay. The rules can be read here: mmc.arkansas.gov/ Web­sites/mm­sar/im­ages/AMMCFi­nalDraftRules.

The com­mis­sion de­cided to al­low for 32 dis­pen­saries and five cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

Grow­ers will be cho­sen by the com­mis­sion based on the mer­its of their ap­pli­ca­tions. An ap­pli­ca­tion will cost $15,000. Un­suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will re­ceive $7,500 back. Suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will have to pay an an­nual $100,000 li­cens­ing fee.

Dis­pen­saries would be al­lowed to grow up to 50 “ma­ture” plants un­der the mar­i­juana amend­ment, though leg­is­la­tion has been filed to give the com­mis­sion a choice in the mat­ter.

Dis­pen­saries that opt not to grow mar­i­juana will pay a $2,500 an­nual li­cens­ing fee. Dis­pen­saries that grow the plants will have to pay an an­nual $25,000 fee.

The com­mis­sion will also hold a public hear­ing on the draft rules from 2-6 p.m. March 31 at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock Wil­liam H. Bowen School of Law.

The Arkansas Depart­ment of Health — which has de­vel­oped rules to re­quire an Arkansas driver’s li­cense or other state-is­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to ob­tain a mar­i­juana registration card, among other mat­ters — is also tak­ing com­ment.

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