A bill placing a special sales tax on medical marijuana received Senate approval Wednesday and is headed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson once the House of Representatives approves an amendment attached to the bill.

House Bill 1580, which applies a 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana at both the wholesale and retail levels, was approved 31-3. A Senate amendment requires that the taxes sunset on July 1, 2019, unless the General Assembly decides to extend it.

All three area senators — Scott Flippo of Bull Shoals, Missy Irvin of Mountain View and Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas — voted in favor of the bill Wednesday.

HB1580 had failed 23-4 on the Senate floor the day before because it did not have the two-thirds majority required to amend the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. All three Twin Lakes Area senators cast votes in favor of the bill Tuesday. That floor vote was expunged from the record Tuesday afternoon, paving the way for the bill to return Wednesday.

HB1580 was approved 77-3 by the House of Representatives on March 2. Area representatives Nelda Speaks of Mountain Home, Jack Fortner of Yellville, John Payton of Wilburn, Scott Baltz of Pocahontas and Michelle Gray of Melbourne each voted in favor of the bill.

HB1580 will be forwarded to the governor’s office once the House confirms a Senate amendment that added the sunset clause to the bill. It has been re-assigned to the House Rules Committee.

According to the state Department of Finance and Administration, governmental oversight of medical marijuana is estimated to cost between $4 and $6 million.

The sales tax on marijuana is expected to raise $1.2 million in fiscal 2018 and $2.4 million in fiscal 2019.

The state will also collect yearly licensing fees from 32 dispensaries and five cultivation facilities that have yet to be licensed. Cultivation licenses carry a $100,000 fee, while dispensaries will have a $25,000 fee if the business grows a limited amount of marijuana itself, or $2,500 if the business does not grow any plants.

Under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, dispensaries are permitted to possess up to 50 mature plants, while cultivation facilities are expected to grow thousands of plants at a time.

Senate Bill 254, which would strike the language allowing dispensaries to grow marijuana and instead give the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission the ability to decide of a dispensary could grow the drug, failed Wednesday to receive approval from the House Rules Committee after no legislator offered up a motion.

Flippo’s district includes most of Baxter and Marion counties, while Irvin’s district includes parts of Baxter, Fulton and Stone counties. Collins-Smith’s district includes parts of Izard and Fulton counties.

Speaks’ district includes northern Baxter County and Fortner’s district includes Marion County and southwest Baxter County. Baltz’s district includes parts of Baxter and Fulton counties, and Payton’s district includes parts of Baxter and Stone counties. Gray’s district includes parts of Izard and Stone counties.

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