A slew of bills modifying the state’s nascent medical marijuana program have been signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson over the past two weeks.

One dozen marijuana-related bills recently saw the governor’s pen, and five more currently await his signature. Any bill modifying the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment must be approved two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of the Representatives before it can be signed into law by the governor.

House Bill 1400, now signed into law as Act 740 of the 91st General Assembly, prohibits the smoking of marijuana anywhere smoking tobacco is also prohibited. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum of Elm Springs, originally called for a statewide ban on smoking medical marijuana before being amended into its current form to receive House approval.

Act 640 also prohibits patients from smoking marijuana in the presence of someone younger than 14, inside of a motor vehicle, in the presence of a pregnant woman and in the presence of another person if the marijuana smoke might cause the second person to be under the influence of marijuana.

The act also prohibits patients under the age of 21 from smoking marijuana, although they can still ingest the drug through other means, like consuming it in food or ingesting it in pill form.

Act 1369 requires that the state first be reimbursed for operating the medical marijuana program when marijuana revenues are divvied up, with any remaining revenue going into the state’s general fund. It also drops the requirement that half of all marijuana revenue be earmarked for vocational and technical training.

An amendment filed by Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View, the bill’s co-sponsor, requires the Legislature to re-examine the allocation of medical marijuana proceeds in 2019 and consider redirecting a portion of that revenue to workforce education.

Act 640 allows the Marijuana Commission and the ABC Division to regulate the “shapes and flavors” of marijuana products so as not to make it appealing to children. It also provides for the regulation of marijuana advertising and artwork and requires that marijuana be dispensed in child-resistant packages.

Much of the legislation recently signed into law addresses behind-the-scenes issues facing the state after residents voted to create a medical marijuana program in November.

For example, the original constitutional amendment created the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to assign licenses to marijuana-related businesses, but did not specify which state department the panel was assigned.

Act 638 places the committee inside the structure of the state Department of Finance and Administration, whose Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will be the enforcement arm of the marijuana program.

The original amendment also required the owners of a prospective marijuana business to pass a criminal background check, but did not specify what entity would conduct the check. Act 545 identifies the Arkansas State Police and the FBI as the law enforcement entities to perform the checks.

Other newly-signed acts that set the stage for the program’s rollout include bills that create a licensing system for marijuana transporters, specify that marijuana licenses expire on June 30 every year, allow the commission to decide if a felony disqualifies an applicant for a marijuana business license and permits the state to collect fines from businesses not complying with marijuana regulations.

Bills presently awaiting Gov. Hutchinson’s signature include House Bill 1679, which would permit the Marijuana Commission to hire five employees. Senate Bill 769 would allow the anonymous medical information of marijuana patients to be added to the Arkansas All-Claims Payer Database, a large-scale database that systematically collects healthcare data for analysis and evaluation.

House Bill 2190, one of three bills approved by the Senate on Thursday, would prohibit dispensaries from selling pipes, bongs, rolling papers and roach clips. The bill would also require that dispensaries sell vaporizers and employ pharmacist consultants.

House Bill 1991 bans marijuana in vending machines, prohibits marijuana use at dispensaries or cultivation facilities and sets a limit of 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol per portion in marijuana-laced foods. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the principal psychoactive constituent in marijuana.

Marijuana amendments

A summary of the medical marijuana-related bills signed into law during the 91st General Assembly:

ACT 4 Pushes deadline for state agencies to publish marijuana regulations to May 8

ACT 5 Strikes language requiring doctors to weigh benefits and risks of medical marijuana when certifying that a patient has a qualifying medical condition. Also specifies that medical marijuana records are not federally protected, but still confidential.

ACT 438 Bans physicians from certifying that a patient has a qualifying medical condition through telemedicine.

ACT 440 Allows the Arkansas Department of Health to reschedule marijuana if the federal government does so first.

ACT 479 Prohibits members of the Arkansas National Guard or U.S. military from participating in the state’s medical marijuana program, as either a designated caregiver or as a patient.

ACT 544 Better defines excluded felonies that would bar people from operating a dispensary or cultivation facility.

ACT 545 Allows the FBI to perform criminal background checks.

ACT 587 Allows the Medical Marijuana Commission to issue a temporary license to a dispensary or cultivation facility when the licensee ceases to be in actual control of the business.

ACT 593 Expands ability of employers to limit marijuana use among employees in a ‘security sensitive’ position.

ACT 594 Dispensary or cultivation facility licenses expire on June 30 and must be renewed prior to July 1. Status: Signed into law as Act 594.

ACT 638 Places the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission within the Department of Finance and Administration.

ACT 639 Allows the Medical Marijuana Commission to collect fines and fees.

ACT 640 Allows the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to regulate artwork, building signs, indoor displays and other forms of medical marijuana marketing. The commission will also regulate the shape and flavors of any medical marijuana products. Requires child-safe packaging on medical marijuana products.

ACT 641 Requires licenses for dispensary or cultivation facilities be issued to individual people, not businesses or groups. Authorizes the transfer of dispensary or cultivation licenses.

ACT 642 Adds licensing process for marijuana transporters, distributors and processors.

ACT 670 Requires tax revenues from medical marijuana to first repay state for program’s administration and enforcement; any excess would go to the state’s general revenue fund. Drops requirement that half of tax revenue go towards vocational and technical training.

ACT 740 Prohibits the smoking of marijuana where the smoking of tobacco is prohibited.

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