Weekly column written for Gov. Asa Hutchinson:
When I was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, I never dreamed I would be governor with the responsibility of implementing the dispensing of medical marijuana. But the voters approved medical marijuana, and I am committed to make it work.
Voters in nine states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. In Arkansas, however, the legal sale and use of marijuana is strictly limited to treatment of the 18 specific medical conditions.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has proceeded carefully as it has moved from voter approval to putting the system in place.
While some have complained that the process has taken too long, the commission took the time it needed to get this right; and also, a state judge stopped the implementation for a long period of time. Now the independent commission is back on track.
The commission’s first task was to select five companies to grow marijuana. Commissioners have granted those licenses and that process is complete.
This week, the five commissioners will review an evaluation of the 200 applicants who are competing for one of the 32 dispensary licenses that the law allows.
The Arkansas Department of Health has certified nearly 7,000 patients who have at least one of the 18 medical conditions that qualify for treatment with medical marijuana.
The department anticipates that it will begin to issue the medical marijuana cards to certified patients in mid-February.
The first medical grade marijuana may be available in Arkansas by April.
Some misguided advocates of medical marijuana have suggested that patients who don’t want to wait for the marijuana to be available here could bypass Arkansas’s law and obtain it more quickly by traveling to Oklahoma.
A newspaper reported last week that Oklahoma officials will give temporary certificates to out-of-state patients who are certified to purchase medical marijuana in another state.
That opens the door for certified Arkansans to travel to Oklahoma to buy marijuana.
But I’d like to remind those who are considering that option that the purchase may be legal in Oklahoma, but the Arkansas amendment only permits the purchase of marijuana from a dispensary that is licensed in this state. If you buy marijuana in Oklahoma and bring it to Arkansas, you would be breaking not only state law, but federal law as well. Federal law prohibits the transportation of marijuana across the state line. Possession of marijuana remains a federal crime.
As the members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission complete this initial phase of implementing the law, I would like to thank them for the thought and care they brought to the task.
Their work means that Arkansas will do this in a way that is best for all Arkansans.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Republican. State Capitol Room 250, 500 Woodlane St., Little Rock, 72201. 501-682-2345.