Arkansas marijuana commission to license five cultivation centers initially | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Arkansas marijuana commission to license five cultivation centers initially

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 7:47 PM

click to enlarge THE COMMISSIONERS: (from left) Dr. Stephen Carroll, James Miller, Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, Travis Story and Dr. Carlos Roman. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • THE COMMISSIONERS: (from left) Dr. Stephen Carroll, James Miller, Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, Travis Story and Dr. Carlos Roman.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission held its second meeting this afternoon and began in earnest the process of establishing rules for the licensing of dispensaries and cultivation facilities authorized by Issue 6, the pro-pot amendment approved by voters in November. (Its first meeting, on Dec. 12, was essentially a formality.)

The commission faces a time crunch right out of the gate, since the medical marijuana amendment specifies dates for rolling out the regulatory regime. Rules regarding licensure must go into effect 120 days after the amendment's passage — that is, March 9 — and the panel must start accepting license applications by June. Although a bill proposed by Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) would push that timeline back by 60 additional days, the commission was advised today by Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) attorney Joel DiPippa not to count on the legislation passing.

That means the commission should develop draft rules by late January to allow ample time for public comment and a public hearing, DiPippa advised.

When one commissioner, Dr. Carlos Roman, suggested that the commission should give itself additional time to promulgate rules, DiPippa matter-of-factly told him that "the commission does not have the ability to make that change." The moment illustrated one of the panel's initial challenges: Several of its members, Roman among them, have no past experience serving in state government. (Another is the chair, Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman.) They face a steep learning curve in the months ahead as lobbyists, interest groups and would-be entrepreneurs jostle for position in the state's nascent marijuana industry.

The commission voted to allow five marijuana grow centers in Arkansas initially, one for each of the state Health Department's five geographic subdivisions. The amendment says the state may license between four and eight such cultivation facilities. Two commissioners, Fayetteville attorney Travis Story and pharmacist Dr. Stephen Carroll of Benton, voted against the motion. Story, who preferred starting out with just four cultivation center licenses, said he was concerned about creating an oversupply relative to market demand. A smaller number of licenses would "give some ... economic stability for those cultivation facilities going forward," he said. Story also pointed out that the amendment allows every dispensary to cultivate as many as 50 plants.

Roman, who made the motion for issuing five licenses, said he wanted to ensure the profits for the centers weren't concentrated geographically. "Five may decrease their profitability ... but I would rather see it geographically spread around," he said. The motion passed, 3-2. (As commissioner James Miller noted, the panel can always increase the number of facilities later.)

Henry-Tillman then asked the commissioners to consider what restrictions they wanted to see placed on growing facilities. "I think we need to think about what a cultivation center means," she said. Roman said the panel should consider security requirements for such facilities, and suggested commissioners travel to other states that have legalized medical marijuana to see how their cultivators operate. (DiPippa told the commission it does not have a budget specifically for travel, but that he would look into using its general funds.) Story said he was concerned about establishing rules for testing the potency of marijuana and establishing what sort of cannabis products the commission would allow to be sold in Arkansas. Carroll said he hoped the commission would clearly define packaging requirements.

However, according to the attorney who actually authored the medical marijuana amendment, none of those things are within the commission's purview.

Little Rock lawyer David Couch, who was in attendance at today's meeting, said after adjournment that the commission's duties as described by Issue 6 are limited to licensing dispensaries and cultivation facilities and determining their geographic distribution, not regulating them otherwise. The amendment does also allow the commission to establish the amount of the drug that a cultivation center can produce, he said. However, the amendment is clear in its specification that issues such as the security requirements at grow centers and dispensaries is the domain of Alcoholic Beverage Control (which is part of the DFA). The Health Department, meanwhile, is working on rules regarding labeling and lab tests.

"I think the commission is somewhat confused as to the scope of their authority," Couch said. He said he was not concerned with the confusion, however, noting that the commission was just appointed earlier this month and has only begun learning the process.

The commissioners themselves acknowledge they have a great deal of work to do in a short amount of time. Henry-Tillman scheduled two more meetings before the end of the year. The next is at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22; the other, on 4 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27.

Commissioners are not salaried, but they do receive an $85 per diem.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

Readers also liked…

  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016
  • Latest Obamacare repeal bill would hit Arkansas treasury hard

    The latest effort to undo Obamacare, the Graham-Cassidy legislation, would shift federal support for health coverage to a block grant system to the states. Bad news for Arkansas.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • Another Republican miracle-working governor

    Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty Dogs & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Most Viewed

  • Hog football: The lawyers take over

    If you believe social media, it's all over but the post-season buyout for Razorback football coach Bret Bielema. That means, in turn, that the issue of what the coach's contract buyout is worth is not just an academic question.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation