- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Legislation aimed at Arkansas’ new medical marijuana law is planned or already filed for the upcoming Legislative session, including one bill that would delay implementation of the law.

Voters in November approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and hepatitis C.

State Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, has filed a bill to delay implementation by 60 days to May 8 to provide more time for lawmakers and state agencies to develop regulations and give the public a chance to comment.

Lawmakers can change most of the amendment with a two-thirds vote, but David Couch, a Little Rock lawyer who supported the amendment, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that little is known yet.

“Beware of anybody who over-promises at this point in time because nobody really knows much of anything,” Couch said.

House said he plans a bill addressing issues he says need to be clarified.

For example, the amendment says anyone with a “felony involving violence” cannot be an owner, board member or officer at a dispensary or cultivation facility.

“We’re going to have to define what that means,” House said. “It certainly includes things like murder and manslaughter and armed robbery, but what about burglary or breaking and entering?”

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, has said he’ll propose using taxes from marijuana sales, which are intended to pay for implementing the law, to help pay for his proposed $105 million-a-year state income tax cut.

Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, said lawmakers haven’t formed a consensus on all the issues they need to address.

“There’s a line, I think, for the members to recognize - that is, it was voted on by the people,” Dismang said. “That vote by the people doesn’t take away our responsibility to ensure this gets done properly. Regardless of our feelings on the issue, that should be our focus.”

Dismang, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, have until Wednesday to appoint five members to the Medical Marijuana Commission to administer and regulate the licensing of dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

“This is a very big undertaking - keep that in mind,” said J.R. Davis, a spokesman for the governor. “We’re essentially creating a mini (Food and Drug Administration) here in the state of Arkansas through some of these regulations.”

Also, two state agencies have begun drafting rules to address their part in implementing the law.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will inspect dispensaries where marijuana is sold and cultivation facilities where it’s grown, and the Department of Health will issue registry identification cards for patients who have any of 18 qualifying conditions as defined in the amendment.

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