Arkansas lawmakers are trying to throw a wrench in the state’s new voter approved medical marijuana program. There is some action in the 2017 session aimed at preventing patients from consuming smokeable forms of the herb, as well as a bill that would prevent the program from becoming functional until after the federal government ends prohibition.
Senator Jason Rapert intends to submit a bill in the State Legislature that would prohibit medical marijuana from being grown and sold throughout the state as long as Uncle Sam still considers it illegal at the national level. But if this pesky sabotage tactic fail to gain enough support, the lawmaker says he will carefully supervise the execution of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA), “to make sure that, if this is going to go forward, that it’s going forward as medicine. You don’t have to smoke dope and get high to get well.”
Unlike some states, such as Minnesota and New York, the language of the AMMA, which was approved by the voters in November 2016, does not come with any restrictions on marijuana consumption methods. The law was designed to give patients the freedom to use medical marijuana in a manner most conducive to their respective health condition. But Rapert, who is backing a bill designed to completely ban the smoking option, believes patients who need anything other than edible forms of the herb are simply looking to get high.
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“Who’s gonna ask a three-year-old kid with epilepsy to smoke a joint? C’mon! It’s just recreational marijuana using, for their own purposes, the sad stories of people that truly need help and are truly looking for assistance from some new drug that could help them,” he told THV 11.
Imposing a no-smoking provision could be a detriment to most patients, as the high costs associated with manufacturing cannabis products, like pills and oils, typically causes retail prices to skyrocket,
However, there is a distinct possibility the program will never see the light of day if the House and Senate gets onboard with Rapert’s latest scheme. The lawmaker is pushing to put the medical marijuana program on an indefinite hiatus until there is harmony between federal and state pot laws.
“Under the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana usage, distribution, possession, is illegal under United States federal law, and that has not changed,” Rapert said. “There are people serving in prison right now for the same activities that, apparently, Arkansas thinks it can proceed with. We are a nation of laws and a state of laws. You must change the law to remove an irreconcilable difference that we have between state and federal law on this particular issue.”
Yet, David Couch, the Little Rock attorney responsible for running the AMMA campaign, says the majority of the voters have already spoken.
“Fifty four percent of the people of the state of Arkansas voted for it,” said Couch, “so it’s kind of hard to undo it now, since it was only a couple months ago.”
If either piece of legislation finds its way to the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson, medical marijuana patients could be in trouble. The governer, who opposed the AMMA, has already signed a bill delaying the implementation of the program.