LITTLE ROCK — The House and Senate public health committees on Monday reviewed the state Department of Health’s proposed rules for Arkansas’ medical marijuana program, which is set to launch with the acceptance of applications for cultivation and dispensary licenses June 30.
The rules have gone through a 30-day public-comment period and still need approval by the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council.
That subcommittee is scheduled to consider the Health Department’s proposed rules, which govern medical-marijuana registration, testing and labeling, as well as medical-marijuana rules proposed by the state Department of Finance and Administration and the state Medical Marijuana Commission, during a June 13 meeting.
Robert Brech, chief counsel for the Health Department, told the public health committees Monday the proposed rules governing registration are taken mostly from the constitutional amendment that voters approved in November to legalize medicinal use of marijuana for people with certain health conditions.
Of the proposed rules not taken directly from the amendment, the one that received the most public comments would require a person seeking a medical-marijuana registration card, which would allow the person to buy the drug, to have an Arkansas driver’s license or identification card, Brech said.
“Some people object to that. They think this is a good opportunity for Arkansas to become a medical-marijuana tourist destination or to allow people to come in from especially the Memphis area and other surrounding cities that might come into Arkansas to get the marijuana,” he said.
But Brech said that is exactly what the federal government does not want.
“The guidance from the Justice Department is very clear. In states that do have a medical marijuana program they will allow that to happen, but they must take steps to not allow the marijuana to flow into states that have not passed similar measures,” he said.
The proposed rules for testing are taken mostly from a publication by the Association of Public Health Laboratories and include testing for solvents and pesticides, Brech said. He said the state Health Department has proposed adding testing for heavy metals and microbiological agents.
The proposed labeling rules are “pretty standard,” Brech told the panel.
The Health Department’s costs related to medical marijuana are estimated at $1.5 million in the first year, Brech said in answer to a question from Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway.
Brech told the panel the agency expects about 30,000 people to obtain registration cards, so a $50 annual registration fee is proposed to cover the agency’s costs.
“If it turns out we don’t spend that much money or that there are more registrants, we’ll adjust that fee,” he said.