Who Do They Represent?

In November, the voters of Arkansas passed a referendum legalizing medical cannabis state-wide, but a bevy of recent bills seem to run a bit counter to that agenda.

The people of Arkansas are comfortable with the idea of medical cannabis, but it seems that legislators are not. A number of the 12 bills that Governor Asa Hutchinson signed recently show just how concerned they are.

Take Act 740, which prohibits smoking cannabis anywhere that smoking tobacco is illegal. When it was first proposed, it prohibited smoking cannabis at all. Act 640 prohibits smoking in vehicles with children and around pregnant women, which is understandable, but also “in the presence of another person if the marijuana smoke might cause the second person to be under the influence of marijuana.”

Sure, hot-boxing someone against their will should be prohibited, but the wording may also prohibit two patients smoking their medication in the same room. A minor inconvenience for most, but it shows how kneejerk the legislation is, that there is no option to consent.

Act 1369 requires that the medical marijuana program be first in line for funds when cannabis tax revenue is being divvied up. It also drops the requirement that half of all revenue is earmarked for vocational and technical training, and an amendment filed by one of its co-sponsors makes the legislature reconsider funding workforce education in 2019. It may be that dropping the education requirement reflects the wants and needs of their constituents, but does anyone really expect the legislature to give up a portion of their general fund in two years time?

Much of the legislation which Arkansas lawmakers have passed is genuinely directed at setting up a legal framework for a properly regulated medical cannabis industry. Acts setting up a state Medical Marijuana Commission, specifying departments for enforcement duties, and requiring that cannabis transporters be licensed, are all fairly commonplace. However, if legislators are not closely watched after a referendum, they can end up hamstringing the industry that the voters meant them to foster.

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