Medical marijuana is coming to Arkansas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be coming to a town near you.

The state amendment that provides for medical marijuana, which was approved by Arkansas voters on Nov. 8, also allows citizens to ban marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries within a city or county through a popular vote.

A county’s quorum court would be the body responsible for calling for a countywide election to vote on banning dispensaries and cultivation facilities. A city council could call for a similar election to decide the issue within its city limits.

Statewide, 53 percent of voters favored the adoption of Issue 6, with 582,832 people voting for the amendment and 515,094 people voting against it. Locally, Baxter County residents were split almost 50-50, with 9,716 people voting against medical marijuana and 9,430 voted for it.

“That’s a proposal that would have to be addressed by the Quorum Court,” County Judge Mickey Pendergrass said. “We’re focused right now on getting the 2017 budget completed; we certainly haven’t had a chance to discuss it.”

The medical marijuana amendment also allows at least 20, but no more than 40 dispensaries statewide, along with at least four, but no more than eight, cultivation facilities. With a limit of four dispensaries per county, over half of Arkansas’ 75 counties will probably not end up with a dispensary.

Locally, cities and counties are given “reasonable zoning regulations applicable to dispensaries or cultivation facilities, provided that those zoning regulations are the same as those for a retail pharmacy,” according to the amendment.

Under the language of the amendment, a dispensary could not be located within 1,500 feet of a school, church or daycare that existed before the date of the dispensary’s application. Cultivation facilities could not locate within 3,000 feet of those buildings.

Under the language establishing Arkansas’ medical marijuana program, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will inspect the dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

The state Department of Health will issue registry identification cards for patients who have medical conditions that qualify them for medicinal marijuana use. Those conditions, identified in the amendment, include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and hepatitis-C.

A second category of qualification is defined as “a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months; severe nausea; seizures, including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.”

Five people will be appointed by the governor, the Senate pro tempore and the House speaker to a Medical Marijuana Commission, which will administer and regulate the licensing of dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The commission will begin accepting license applications by June 1.

“I can see two sides to it,” Mountain Home Mayor Joe Dillard said. “Maybe it can help people on the medical side, but I also have to worry about the effect it can have on city employees. With the equipment and trucks city employees operate, you certainly don’t want someone taking it and endangering themselves or someone else.”

The amendment forbids users from operating a vehicle while under the influence of medical marijuana, but it also states that employers may not discriminate against employees using medical marijuana.

“That’s one of the scariest parts, for me, of the whole thing,” Judge Pendergrass said. “As a county employee, you can be drug tested any time, either randomly or by demand. But with the medical marijuana, how can you tell after an accident if someone was under the influence? They’re going to have it in their system.”

The medical marijuana amendment is expected to be addressed by the Arkansas Association of Counties next year, Judge Pendergrass said. The Arkansas Municipal League, an association of Arkansas cities, is also expected to address the issue in the coming months, Mayor Dillard said.

“We are going to have to sit down and craft some rules on its use,” Mayor Dillard said. “It’s like any other drug, you have to be careful not to endanger others. I’m sure there will be some discussion.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Local Pot Dispensaries Not Guaranteed Under Amendment
Author: Scott Liles
Contact: The Baxter Bulletin
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Website: The Baxter Bulletin