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Arkansas agency begins drafting medical marijuana rules

by The Associated Press | November 30, 2016 at 4:22 p.m. | Updated November 30, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK — Medical marijuana products sold in Arkansas would have to include detailed labels with information about their laboratory analysis, dosage, source and warnings under a draft of rules being prepared for the launch of the first medical marijuana program in the Bible Belt.

The proposed rules, which the state Department of Health released Wednesday to The Associated Press, detail the process for patients to obtain registry cards for buying medical marijuana, the lab testing requirements for the drug and the process for adding new qualifying conditions. Voters on Nov. 8 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions, and the state faces a June 1 deadline to begin accepting applications for dispensaries that would sell the drug.

The department said it hopes to present the rules to the state Board of Health in January before it begins gathering public comment.

"The plan was to keep it as simple as possible at this point," Robert Brech, the department's general counsel.

Draft rules haven't been released yet for the regulation of and application process for dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The governor and legislative leaders have until Dec. 9 to appoint members of the five-member commission that will license the dispensaries.

The proposed Health Department rules don't say how much qualified patients would have to pay to apply for a registry card allowing them to buy marijuana from the dispensaries. Brech said the department still has to determine how much it will cost to administer the program and how many qualified patients are expected to participate.

"We're going to have to make a good faith effort on how many registrants there will be and compare that to the number of physicians we might need and the cost of the program," Brech said.

David Couch, the attorney who spearheaded the medical marijuana campaign, said he doesn't think the testing or labeling requirements would be too burdensome. He said the department would also need to spell out the rules for the database of qualified patients that is required by the amendment.

"I didn't see anything in here looking at it that I thought was some sort of back-door way to limit the scope of the amendment in any manner," said Couch, who heads the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Association.

The proposed rules were released the same day a state lawmaker filed legislation that would delay the launch of the medical marijuana program. The proposal by Republican Rep. Doug House would give agencies until early May, rather than early March, to adopt the rules for the program. It also would delay the deadline for Arkansas to begin accepting dispensary applications to July 1.


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