House OKs medical-marijuana bills

LITTLE ROCK — The House on Friday approved and sent to the Senate four bills to tweak the constitutional amendment voters approved in November to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

The state Legislature can amend a voter-approved constitutional amendment with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

House Bill 1051 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, passed 86-1. The bill would allow cultivation facilities and dispensaries to contract with transporters, distributors and processors, which would be licensed by the state Medical Marijuana Commission.

HB 1057 by House passed 90-1. The bill would require criminal background checks for cultivation facility and dispensary applicants and agents, as well as caregivers of patients using medical marijuana.

HB 1369 by House passed 89-1. The bill would use sales tax revenues to create a fund to pay for administrative and enforcement costs related to the medical-marijuana program.

HB 1370 by House passed 89-1. The bill would authorize the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to regulate advertising, marketing packaging and promotion of dispensaries and cultivation centers.

House also filed several new bills on medical marijuana Friday, including one, HB 1508, that would ban advertising of medical marijuana.


House approves education grant program

LITTLE ROCK — The House voted 91-0 Friday to approve a bill containing Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed grant program aimed at increasing enrollment and degree completion in high-demand fields at community, technical and nursing colleges.

House Bill 1426 by Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, would create the Arkansas Future Grant Program, which would cover tuition and fees for students who enroll in high-demand fields such as computer science or welding.

The students would have to agree to meet monthly with mentors, complete 15 hours of community service per semester and work full-time in Arkansas for at least three years after graduating. If a grant recipient failed to fulfill his or her commitment, the grant would convert to a loan that would have to be repaid.

To offset the program’s estimated $8 million annual cost, the state would cancel the Workforce Improvement Grant, or WIG, and Higher Education Opportunities Grant, or Go!, programs.

The bill goes to the Senate.