The Arkansas House Rules Committee advanced two bills Wednesday that modify the way the state will regulate medical marijuana.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment went into effect November 9, a day after it was passed by voters. The amendment specifies that rulemaking agencies like the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration have to finalize any applicable regulations 120 days after the amendment’s effective date. But HB1026, sponsored by Republican State Rep. Douglas House of North Little Rock, extends the 120 day deadline to 180 days, or from March to early May.
“It’s taken folks time to research what needs to be done and they basically have come back to us through the governor’s office and said we need about two months extension,” he said while presenting his bill in the rules committee.
The legislation also requires the Medical Marijuana Commission to start accepting applications for cultivation centers and dispensaries by July 1, instead of June 1, as specified in the original amendment. The bill advanced out of committee on a voice vote.
The other bill from House, HB1058, also advanced out of committee. It removes a requirement that doctors who prescribe marijuana to their patients have to certify benefits of the drug outweigh the risks. House told reporters it was a needless requirement.
“Essentially the physician says this patient has this particular condition: Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, something like that. That’s as far as the physician needs to go. What conversations the physician may choose to have with her patient, that’s between her and her patient.”
House acknowledged removing the certification requirement could make it easier for patients to obtain a prescription. The bill also eliminates a provision which specifies that a medical marijuana patient card application is an official medical record.
House is the sponsor of three other bills that modify the marijuana law, adding criminal background checks, creating a licensure requirement for transporters and clarifying what kinds of felony offenses prevent patients from qualifying. Those bills were deferred and will be taken up later.