LITTLE ROCK — A House committee on Wednesday endorsed bills to delay implementation of the state’s medical-marijuana program and remove a requirement that doctors recommending the drug say its benefits outweigh its risks.
In voice votes with no “no” votes heard, the House Rules Committee endorsed House Bills 1026 and 1058, both by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock. The bills go next to the full House.
HB 1026 would change the deadlines for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to set up a process for issuing licenses to dispensaries and cultivation facilities and for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration to adopt rules for overseeing the dispensaries and cultivation facilities.
Under the constitutional amendment voters approved to legalize medical marijuana, those deadlines are 120 days from the amendment’s Nov. 8 approval date; under HB 1026, the deadlines would be extended to 180 days.
HB 1026 also would delay the deadline for the commission to begin accepting applications for dispensary and cultivation licenses from June 1 to July 1.
House told reporters after the vote on HB 1026 that state agencies “are going to have to have some time for public comment” before adopting rules regarding medical marijuana. “There’s going to be a time crunch to do that within 120 days.”
HB 1058 would eliminate a requirement that a doctor who recommends a patient use medical marijuana sign a document stating that the potential benefits of the medicinal use of marijuana would likely outweigh any health risks for the patient.
The bill also would add a provision that medical records submitted by patients seeking to obtain medical marijuana are exempt from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
House told reporters that under HB 1058, a doctor recommending medical marijuana would have to sign a document stating only that the patient has a qualifying condition.
He said some doctors would be happy to sign a document stating that the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh its risks, “but to wholesale say that applies to everybody, that would be a stretch.”