Last week, two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation to limit the scope of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, which was passed by 53 percent of voters in the general election on Nov. 8, 2016.
Sen. Jason Rapert joined Rep. Robin Lundstrum as a primary sponsor on House Bill 1400, which was introduced on Monday, Jan. 30. The bill, which is still making its way through the committee process, would ban smoking medical marijuana in any location across the state. Lundstrum said options like patches, oils and creams would still be available.
In an article published by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Jan. 31, Rapert claimed that smoking medical marijuana has no medical benefits.
“No medical professional that I have spoken to, no medical information that I have seen, says that smoking marijuana has truly any medicinal benefit whatsoever,” Rapert said.
Sophomore Kara Moreland, who voted for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment said the lawmakers are in the wrong by attempting to make drastic changes to the amendment after a majority of Arkansans voted for it.
“If they wanted to make changes to it, then that should have been done before we voted on it,” Moreland said. “I do, however, believe that they are trying to make it better and hopefully to where (only) patients who actually need it can get it.”
House Speaker Jeremy Gillam tapped Rapert’s Republican colleague, Rep. Douglas House, to organize legislation in both chambers regarding medical marijuana alongside two senators.
“If you want to close down the dispensaries and the cultivators, prohibit smoking,” House said to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Jan. 31. “I’m not in the business of trying to make sure that marijuana stays in business. I’m in the business of trying to protect the people of Arkansas.”
House and the other lawmakers have also introduced two additional pieces of legislation: House Bills 1391 and 1392.
HB 1391 would allow local governments like city councils and quorum courts to ban medical marijuana facilities without a public vote, and HB 1392 would prevent the dispensation of marijuana in edibles unless the marijuana was to aid with ingestion. Both bills are still in committee.
On Nov. 8, 2016, a majority of Arkansans voted in favor of Issue 6, or the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, which legalized medical marijuana for 17 qualifying medical conditions and would allocate the tax revenue to technical institutes, vocational schools, workforce training and the state general fund.
Moreland said she would not have voted for the amendment had she not been friends with a man who suffered from epilepsy. She realized medical marijuana was a viable treatment option for him and other Arkansans who had exhausted traditional treatment options.
“If you were given the opportunity to change someone’s life in a positive way, would you do it? I know I would,” Moreland said. “There is no reason for anyone to be suffering when there is something out there that will help them get better. We need this medical marijuana amendment for those that are in pain, suffering, having seizures (or are) cancer patients. It is somebody’s last option.”