Lo­cal bans put a snag in med­i­cal mar­i­juana

Not ready, cry some cities as state laws on dis­pen­saries, cul­ti­va­tion go into ef­fect

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - BRIAN FANNEY

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.

“We’re just not ready,” Mattingly said. “We need some more time, and that’s what was the driver for the 90-day mora­to­rium.”

City and county gov­ern­ments can­not ban fa­cil­i­ties, but cit­i­zens can pe­ti­tion for a lo­cal-op­tion vote to ban dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties, un­der the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ap­proved by vot­ers in Novem­ber.

The amend­ment “does not al­low a city, in­cor­po­rated town, or county to pro­hibit the op­er­a­tion of any dis­pen­saries or cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the city, in­cor­po­rated town, or county un­less such a pro­hi­bi­tion is ap­proved at an elec­tion,” ac­cord­ing to its text.

When asked about the pro­vi­sion, Mattingly said: “That has not been any­thing that has been brought to my at­ten­tion. There has not been any dis­cus­sions with me about that sub­ject. I re­ally can’t com­ment.”

The Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Com­mis­sion is tak­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The ap­pli­ca­tions are due Sept. 18. Com­mis­sion­ers did not set a due date to fin­ish grad­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions be­cause they don’t know how many they will re­ceive. Couch has said he be­lieves it will be spring be­fore med­i­cal mar­i­juana is avail­able.

Couch said many of the bills passed dur­ing the reg­u­lar leg­isla­tive ses­sion re­fine the amend­ment, but none en­dan­ger med­i­cal-mar­i­juana use in Arkansas.

As a re­sult of one new law — Act 1024 by Rep. Clint Penzo, R-Spring­dale — dis­pen­saries will have to carry va­por­iz­ers and hire phar­ma­cists to ad­vise pa­tients.

In the ap­pli­ca­tion ap­proved by the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Com­mis­sion, ap­pli­cants are told: “Dis­pen­saries will be re­quired to hire a phar­ma­cist con­sul­tant.”

As part of an­other law — Act 545 by Rep. Dou­glas House, R-North Lit­tle Rock — those ap­ply­ing to run a dis­pen­sary or cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­ity will have to un­dergo a crim­i­nal back­ground check con­ducted by the Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Bu­reau of the Arkansas State Po­lice and the Fed­eral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A third law — Act 1100 by Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Mel­bourne — spec­i­fies se­cu­rity re­quire­ments for dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties — in­clud­ing locks, cam­eras and alarm sys­tems.

The Arkansas Fam­ily Coun­cil ad­vo­cated for House Bill 1391 by Rep. Robin Lund­strum, R-Elm Springs, which aimed to al­low lo­cal gov­ern­ments — rather than by ref­er­en­dum — to place the mat­ter on the bal­lot for a pop­u­lar vote and al­low city coun­cils and county quo­rum courts to reg­u­late mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties. The bill did not pass out of com­mit­tee.

The con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment spec­i­fies that it “does not pro­hibit a city, in­cor­po­rated town, or county of this state from en­act­ing rea­son­able zon­ing reg­u­la­tions ap­pli­ca­ble to dis­pen­saries or cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties, pro­vided that those zon­ing reg­u­la­tions are the same as those for a li­censed re­tail phar­macy.”

A full list of med­i­cal mar­i­juana-re­lated bills is avail­able at arkansason­line.com/ mar­i­jua­n­abills.

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