LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The landscape for medical marijuana in Arkansas may soon change after a Thursday court ruling.
In a Pulaski County Circuit Court ruling, Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch ruled that 27 medical marijuana acts passed by the state legislature since 2017 were null. All of those 27 laws affected Constitutional Amendment 98, which made medical marijuana legal in Arkansas.
Welch’s ruling is expected to be appealed, but if it is upheld Natural State medical marijuana users would have greater access to medical marijuana prescriptions, devices to consume marijuana and fewer restrictions on using it.
Dispensaries could begin selling smoking supplies, such as bongs and rolling papers, and marijuana sold would lose the requirement to have a warning label.
Marijuana-infused food or drinks could have over 10mg of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. A place’s “no smoking” designation would no longer mean medical marijuana could not be consumed there.
Security for marijuana facilities, such as types of walls and alarm systems, would no longer be mandated by state law. Criminal background checks would also no longer be required for anyone applying for a cultivator or dispensary license.
Doctors would be allowed to prescribe marijuana via a telemedicine exam, but one change some medical marijuana users may not look forward to is that a physician’s written certification of a medical marijuana patient’s condition would lose protection from a Freedom of Information Act release.
Other laws impacted included apportioning medical marijuana sales tax and recordkeeping requirements.
Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said that the office, which would be impacted by the administrative laws, is working with the AG’s office to determine the next steps.
“We have been reviewing the ruling with our counsel, the Attorney General’s Office,” Hardin said. “We will be following up with the court for clarification as we consider next steps. We expect the state’s medical marijuana industry will continue to operate normally.”
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin indicated he felt the order was in error and his office is exploring what to do with current laws. The state marijuana industry should continue to act as if the law were still in effect, he said.
“Amendment 98 specifically grants the General Assembly the authority to make amendments in the manner set out for laws initiated by the people,” Griffin said. “I fully stand behind our legislature and believe their actions amending Amendment 98 were constitutional, and my office is pursuing the options allowed under the law. Absent further guidance, the state’s medical marijuana industry should continue to operate as usual.”
The medical marijuana amendment was approved by voters in November 2016. Because it was a constitutional amendment any changes, such as laws passed by the legislature, must be approved by voters, Welch ruled.
The Judge’s decision was based heavily on a 1951 case, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. Edgmon. In that case the state supreme court ruled that the legislature could not repeal or amend a constitutional amendment.
The case which led to the Thursday ruling was brought by two Arkansas marijuana cultivators: God Day Farm Arkansas and Capital City Medicinals.