With state voters’ approval of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, state agencies are beginning to develop the infrastructure to regulate the drug.
A day after passage of Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters the state now has “to move very thoughtfully and carefully.”
“The people voted this in. And I intend to implement it according to the will of the people of Arkansas,” he said.
Hutchinson opposed the amendment in the run up to the election. But he says with implementation, the state should “do it right.”
“To do it in a way that protects our children, to do it in a way that minimizes the problems that we’ve been very concerned about. That’s what the regulations are about,” he said
Hutchinson is appropriating 3 million dollars from his rainy fund to the Department of Health and the Department of Finance and Administration to deal with initial regulatory costs. Health department rules will mostly focus on patients, while DF&A will mostly focus on dispensaries and cultivation centers. The agencies have to adopt regulations no later than 120 days after the amendment’s effective date—which was November 9th . DF&A Spokesman Jake Bleed says his agency is already at work.
“At this point in the process, it’s hard to predict exactly what our needs are going to be. DFA is going to need new administrative help, as well as enforcement help. But we’ll also need some help with tax auditors and revenue staff and other areas where portions of the agency are going to be tasked with regulating medical marijuana,” he said.
Bleed says DF&A and the Department of Health are likely to hire as many as three dozen new staff members as a result. DF&A and its subsidiary, Alcohol Beverage Control, can license up to 8 maximum cultivation facilities and up to 40 dispensaries under the amendment. The amendment stipulates that no more than four dispensaries can be established in a county.
Department of Health spokeswoman Marisha DiCarlo says her agency’s regulations will focus on issuing patient registry identification cards and tracking the dispensed marijuana.
“Some of the other responsibilities include regulating labeling, testing standards, establishing reasonable fees, and then considering public petitions to add any additional medical conditions to the list of qualifying conditions,” she said.
The Department of Health has set up a website and a call-line to answer citizen questions on medical marijuana. The Governor, House Speaker, and Senate Pro-Tem are to appoint a five-member medical marijuana commission to work with the Legislature and also oversee the regulatory process.