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State of the Leaf: Arkansas Lawmakers Aim to Gut MMJ Program

February 2, 2017

U.S. News Updates


Republican lawmakers have submitted three bills that would significantly alter the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, which voters passed in November.

  • House Bill 1400 would ban the smoking of medical cannabis throughout Arkansas. It would also remove a portion of the law that allows landlords to permit patients to smoke on a leased property.
  • House Bill 1391 would allow cities and towns to ban dispensaries or cultivation centers.
  • House Bill 1392, authored by Sen. Gary Stubbefield, would ban edibles from being manufactured, sold, purchased, or freely exchanged. It would, however, allow patients to make their own edibles.
  • Senate Bill 130 would add cannabis to the state’s DWI law, establishing a per se limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood


Emerald Triangle-area Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) introduced a bill aimed at prohibiting cannabis businesses from using the name of a California county or any similar name unless the cannabis is produced in that county. Both Proposition 64 and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which govern the state’s medical and adult-use programs, respectively, already prohibit marijuana products from using the name of a county for labeling, marketing, or packaging purposes unless the cannabis was produced in that county. Senate Bill 175 expands that definition to include “any similar sounding name that is likely to mislead consumers as to the origin of the product.” Humboldt County Chamber of Commerce Treasurer Dani Burkhart said that the bill is designed to protect the cannabis cultivation prestige of the Emerald Triangle, which comprises Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties.


State lawmakers have introduced more than 10 bills pertaining to medical marijuana this legislative session, including a proposal to create a pilot program that would allow children with epilepsy to be treated with hemp oil. Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Elkhart) and Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) labeled the legislation a “hemp” bill to distinguish it from other, more comprehensive state medical marijuana programs. It would allow the use of hemp oil that’s low in THC and high in CBD. Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage), however, introduced a comprehensive medical marijuana bill and is hoping to dispel some of the stigma surrounding cannabis as medicine. Senate Bill 255 would allow qualified patients access to cannabis with the recommendation of a physician and would create a Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME) to oversee the regulation of a statewide medical marijuana bill.


State lawmakers are reportedly drafting a constitutional amendment that would tax and regulate cannabis for adult use. Maryland voters would vote next year on whether to approve the amendment. Public opinion on legalization has shifted so significantly in the past two years that some members of the General Assembly are confident it’s just a matter of time before the state legalizes cannabis. Gov. Larry Hogan has declined to take a position on any marijuana referendum. Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Ed Kasemeyer said he would vote against a legalization bill, but he sees no issue with allowing voters to decide.


Minnesota’s medical marijuana program says it needs extra funding to cover the costs of maintaining patient databases and inspecting cannabis facilities. Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is one of the most restrictive in the country and requires the manufacturers undergo routine state inspections and submit all oils, pills, and other cannabis products for secondary lab testing. The Office of Medical Cannabis requested an additional $500,000 over the next two years to cover maintenance costs. That’s on top of the $1.4 million already provided to help cover operating costs. The state’s two manufacturers lost a combined total of $5 million during the program’s first full year in 2015, and the annual fee for manufacturers rose from $94,000 to $146,000 last year. Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal says additional state funding is essential to help avoid an “increase the cost of medical cannabis to program participants.”


Gov. Brian Sandoval announced in his State of the State address that his proposed budget for the next two years includes a 10 percent special tax on adult-use retail cannabis sales that would help fund public education. The proposal has led to backlash from some lawmakers, such as Sen. Patricia Farley (I-Las Vegas), who voiced concerns that an additional tax on top of the existing 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transactions might push consumers back into the black market. However, Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), one of the authors of the state’s medical marijuana legislation, was optimistic about the governor’s proposal. “He’s on board with getting it going,” Segerblom said. “It’s really exciting.”

New York

A bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Empire State has gained the support of former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra as well as drug policy consultant Nicolas Eyle. The advocacy group NY Grows is officially backing the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” sponsored by Sen. Liz Kreuger, which would repeal the criminal provisions related to the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and allow the home cultivation of up to six plants for personal use. Kreuger has introduced a similar cannabis legalization bill every year since 2013 and seems determined to push legalization through the Legislature. With eight states now legalized, including two states and a District on the East Coast, this may be the first year that legalization will be given full consideration during the legislative session.


House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) is making good on his threat to take action against a law that partially decriminalized marijuana possession in Nashville and Memphis. House Bill 173 would repeal any local law that is inconsistent with penalties outlined in the state’s statute for drug control. Lamberth and some others criticized the ordinance early on, saying it would allow law enforcement in Nashville and Memphis to decide arbitrarily whether to hand out a civil citation for the possession of a small amount of cannabis or to charge the offense as a misdemeanor under state law. The ordinances were signed into law in September, and Nashville officers issued only 27 civil citations in the following month, compared to 815 state citations.


Members of a House Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to move forward with House Bill 130, which would allow universities in the state to conduct research on cannabinoids. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem), who co-sponsored a bill during last year’s legislative session to authorize the use of medicinal marijuana. While the lawmakers considered pushing again to legalize medical use, they stopped short and will instead push for more research. The new bill would allow the handling and processing of cannabis by Utah researchers conducting an institutionally reviewed, board-approved study.

International News Updates


A survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners found that the majority of GPs support legalizing cannabis for therapeutic use but oppose the government’s policy on decriminalization. Three out of five surveyed doctors agreed that cannabis can play a role in palliative care, pain management, and the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The study was published in the Harm Reduction Journal and concluded that “ongoing research into the health and other effects of drug policy changes on cannabis is required.”

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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