LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Senate on Monday rejected a bill to ban smoking marijuana in all locations in the state.
Senate Bill 357 by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, received 10 votes in support and 15 votes against. Because it would amend the constitutional amendment voters approved in November to legalize medical marijuana, it needs a two-thirds majority to pass, or 24 votes in the 35-member Senate.
After the Senate adjourned, Rapert said he will seek a second vote on the bill.
“All evidence shows that smoking marijuana is bad for your health, but yet we’re allowing it to pass through and allow smoking to occur. It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” he said.
Opponents of the bill say it would thwart the will of the voters who they say presumably had smoking in mind as one way to consume the drug when they approved the constitutional amendment.
The Senate did pass one medical-marijuana bill Monday. In a 24-0 vote, senators approved House Bill 1451 by Rep. Trevor Drown, R-Dover, which would prohibit members of the Arkansas National Guard and the U.S. military from being approved by the state to use, possess or be a caregiver for someone using marijuana.
Federal law and military rules already prohibit members of the military from using or possessing marijuana. Although the federal government currently is not enforcing anti-marijuana laws that conflict with state laws allowing medical marijuana, the military does not permit its members in any state to use or possess marijuana for any reason, Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, a co-sponsor of the bill, told senators.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, asked whether the military prohibits its members from being caregivers to people who use medical marijuana.
Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, who served two tours in Afghanistan with the Army Special Forces, responded that the military cannot allow its members to be marijuana caregivers because if it did, “they will use that as an excuse” if they fail a drug test.
The bill, which passed in the House last month, goes back to the House for concurrence in a Senate amendment that added Irvin as a co-sponsor.
The House on Monday approved House Bill 1460 by Rep. Carlton Wing, R-North Little Rock. The bill, which would allow employers to fire, suspend or reassign a worker in a safety-sensitive position who tests positive for marijuana, cleared the chamber in an 87-1 vote.
The bill goes to the Senate.