Medical pot plan in state progresses
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.