LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Legislative Council leadership set in motion the key players in the state’s new medical marijuana law from seed to sale.
The council’s approval of emergency rules Wednesday allowed them go into effect Monday at noon as required by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016.
“Everybody knows what the rulebook is, how the game is going to be played,” said State Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, who crafted the legislation.
Hopeful cultivation facility and dispensary owners are obtaining land, equipment and employment options, while doctors consider patient certification and pharmacists question how to dose the drug.
“There are literally thousands of people in the background now that are all preparing for this big seismic change in Arkansas culture,” House said.
According to the rules, the Medical Marijuana Commission shall issue at least four but no more than eight cultivation facility licenses and at least 20 but no more than 40 dispensary licenses. They will be based on merit.
For dispensaries, licenses will be assigned to eight geographic zones with a limit of four per county.
For both dispensaries and cultivation facilities, Arkansans who have lived in the state for at least seven years must hold 60 percent of ownership.
“It’s not a matter of interstate commerce and that’s an important distinction,” House said. “That does not mean that outside interests cannot participate through investment. But if you’re going to be the ones to get the license and control the facility, you’re going to be subject to Arkansas law.”
No individual can have interest in more than one cultivation facility and dispensary.
Among their many tasks, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and health department will work together to implement an inventory tracking system for the products.
“It’s been a lot of hard work to try to create a mini Food and Drug Administration from the ground up,” House said.
As the state moves forward, Rep. House is most worried about the implementation of testing and laboratory rules that fall under the health department.
“I hope our standards are not such that no product that people produce will pass the standard,” he said.
If so, the rules of the game could change.
“It’s always going to be a work in progress,” House said. “You don’t just get it right and that’s the end of it. I mean, even speed limits on highways change from time to time.”
The application period for cultivation facilities and dispensaries should open July 1.
The legislative council will review the permanent medical marijuana rules, duplicates of the emergency rules, May 19, when they should go into effect.