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Arkansas Must Develop Regulations for Medical Cannabis

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The Arkansas Department of Health has 120 days to develop regulations and procedures for dispensing medical marijuana. (tvirbickis/iStockphoto)
The Arkansas Department of Health has 120 days to develop regulations and procedures for dispensing medical marijuana. (tvirbickis/iStockphoto)
November 10, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Now that Arkansas has approved the use of medical marijuana, state officials are scrambling to put a framework in place to accommodate the new law.

Arkansans approved Issue 6, one of a wave of cannabis-related initiatives across the country on Election Day. In all, eight states approved measures allowing marijuana use for either medical or recreational purposes.

Marisha DiCarlo, director of health communications with the Arkansas Department of Health, says that even though the measure passed, it's probably not a good idea to light up a joint just yet.

"I do think that people think that this means that they can just smoke marijuana now and that it's legal, and that's not the case,” DiCarlo said. "This is going to be a process that people go through if they have a qualifying medical condition."

The state health department has 120 days to develop regulations, establish a department to regulate medical marijuana, and develop a budget, DiCarlo said. Once things are up and running, the state will issue registry cards to qualified patients and designated caregivers and maintain a listing of approved dispensaries.

Marijuana advocates say Arkansas is part of a national movement to approve its use. Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - or NORML - said states are rapidly adopting marijuana use laws.

"The voters spoke loudly and they spoke clearly,” Armentano said. "With regard to the vote in Arkansas, the voters made it clear that they do not wish to have the state come between the decisions of a doctor and patient."

The next step, according to Armentano, is for the federal government to drop its ban on marijuana, which he called a "pointless policy."

"We now live in a society where over half of all U.S. states recognize the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana by statute,” Armentano said.

State officials will post information with their progress on the health department's website and will operate a telephone hotline to answer questions.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR