LITTLE ROCK — A Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to delay implementation of the state’s medical-marijuana program and sent the measure to the Senate for final approval.
In a voice vote with no dissent, the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1026 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock.
The bill would delay the deadline for state agencies to adopt rules for the regulation of medical marijuana from 120 days to 180 days from the Nov. 8 passage of the state’s constitutional amendment legalizing medical-marijuana and would delay the program’s launch from June 1 to July 1.
House said the agencies need the extra time. The bill passed Tuesday in the House in a 91-0 vote.
In another voice vote with no dissenting votes heard, the committee endorsed and sent to the Senate HB 1058 by House. The bill, which was approved 70-23 in the House on Tuesday, would remove from the medical-marijuana amendment a requirement that a doctor recommending medical marijuana for a patient declare that the benefits of the drug are likely to outweigh the risks.
House said many doctors are not comfortable with making that declaration. For the sake of carrying out the will of the voters, the requirement should be removed, he said.
The bill also would change the amendment to state that a patient’s medical information would be “confidential” but would not be considered “medical records.” House said the intent of the change is to avoid making the information subject to the federal Health Information Privacy Protection Act and said even accidental violations of the act carry hefty fines.
Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, asked how the choice of wording in a state law could determine whether the information is subject to a federal law.
State Health Department attorney Robert Brech testified that the language change was being proposed as “a precaution” but acknowledged that “it is possible it could still fall under HIPPA.”