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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Blake Johnson looks over a measure Wednesday during the Senate Education Committee meeting. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday to levy a special tax on medical marijuana.

Lawmakers also considered bills regarding marijuana impairment in schools and limiting the ability of dispensaries to grow some plants.

House Bill 1580 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, passed 31-1. The bill had failed Tuesday in a 23-4 vote. Twenty-four votes are needed to approve changes to the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. Laws enacted during this legislative session will help shape how medical marijuana is grown, distributed and used in the state.

The bill would impose a 4 percent tax on medical marijuana each time it changes hands. The tax compounds as it is levied on growers' sales to dispensaries and on dispensaries' sales to customers.

[BILL TRACKER: See the status of all marijuana-related bills in Arkansas Legislature]

"This is a critical bill," said Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, R-Gravette. The state regulatory program is a "house of cards" without necessary funding, he said.

The tax is expected to raise $1.2 million in fiscal 2018 and $2.4 million in fiscal 2019. The tax sunsets thereafter.

Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, had argued against the bill Tuesday, saying fees imposed on marijuana facilities are expected to generate millions of dollars to support the program. He is chairman of the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. He did not vote Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Senate Education Committee approved House Bill 1935 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle. The bill would allow a public school to bar a medical marijuana user from attending school or events if the user is impaired by the marijuana. The bill originally would have allowed students who tested positive for marijuana to also be banned.

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Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, questioned how someone using medical marijuana would ever test negative for the drug.

The bill was amended in response to concerns about that provision from Elliott, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, and Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning.

The House Rules Committee failed to approve a bill Wednesday allowing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to decide whether dispensaries should be allowed to grow up to 50 mature medical marijuana plants.

The dispensaries will be allowed to grow plants under the Medical Marijuana Amendment but would face increased fees and regulations under draft rules from the commission.

The bill -- Senate Bill 254 by Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville -- did not receive a motion. Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, who presented the bill, said allowing dispensaries to grow plants is a threat to public safety.

Melissa Fults, executive director of the Drug Policy Education Group and a supporter of medical marijuana, spoke against the bill. She said the voter-approved measure prevents the five growers from acting as a monopoly and allows patients access to specialized strains.

A Section on 03/30/2017

Print Headline: Senate endorses special tax on pot


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  • hah406
    March 30, 2017 at 7:20 a.m.

    They do realize that if they over-tax and over-regulate this new market, they will just drive everyone back into the underground black market and continue to enrich the Mexican cartels?

    March 30, 2017 at 7:27 a.m.

    Run it up! This tax should be higher than the alcohol sin taxes since the bulk of the use will NOT be medical. There will be health related state costs due to the legalization of marijuana.

  • bfe71730
    March 30, 2017 at 9 a.m.

    yeah right, KCSAP, next all the white women will be marrying blacks, go ahead and watch Refer Madness one more time!

  • Balien
    March 30, 2017 at 9:25 a.m.

    Now the AR-Leg needs to pass law(s) requiring the health insurance industry to cover this new medicine.

  • TimberTopper
    March 30, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.

    Somewhere I remember that food and drugs weren't to be taxed at a high rate. Sure appears that the black market pharmacy will continue to thrive!

  • mrcharles
    March 30, 2017 at 11:53 a.m.

    Is it possible the cartel has taken over the leg? Sounds like hah is right this is a sly plan to keep the criminal element in the market .

    And we all know of course that alchol is just a minor inconvenience, as devil weed makes you want to beat your significant other, beat up some loud mouth [ sometimes the question of who the loudmouth is one to be figured out], Sin tax, why dont we just tax the devil since he causes sin. Sure would like to talk to that initial prime cause that made such a bad buy, though there was that job incident where he was given specific permission to try the idea of Trading Places on him.

    Next thing you know sugar will be taxed, though it would be hard to cal it a sin tax since it is in everything. I even heard it is in diabetes, or causes it, or I just dont know as the ancient book just isnt clear about this matter.

  • dearlo
    March 30, 2017 at 12:42 p.m.

    TAX!!!!!!!!!!!! Lucky that the black market is alive and doing really well. My friend has NOT had a seizure in over a year and had many while on legal drugs, that is a FACT. He does not drink nor do any real drugs. They got really bad on legal drugs.

  • 3WorldState1
    March 30, 2017 at 4:55 p.m.

    Like the wet counties fighting against dry counties getting booze. Maybe the leg is run by the cartels? Or they are just really stupid.

  • NoUserName
    March 30, 2017 at 6:15 p.m.

    To be paid for by those that need it. Way to go Ledge! You want to tax it? Let's completely legalize it. Then you can have at it.

  • Knuckleball1
    March 30, 2017 at 7:02 p.m.

    Yes 3World, they are that stupid....!!!!!

    Over 3000 bills filed between both houses.... and the vast majority are just as stupid...!!!