Arkansas and North Dakota Lawmakers Undermining Medical Marijuana Laws

Federal bill to protect legal states gets more co-sponsors; Majority in Texas supports legalization

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Bills advanced in the Arkansas Legislature to make changes to the voter-approved medical marijuana constitutional amendment, but will require a two-thirds vote to become law. The most shocking of the bills would forbid members of the state’s National Guard from participating in the medical marijuana program as patients or as caregivers. Another bill would increase the cost of medical marijuana by applying an additional 4 percent tax at the grow site and another 4 percent tax on retail sales, in addition to other state and local sales taxes. Other bills deal with licenses, advertising and packaging restrictions, fines and fees, and oversight of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. A new poll from Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College finds that slim majorities oppose proposals to ban smoking in the medical marijuana program and to wait until the federal government approves marijuana as medicine.

In North Dakota, an emergency measure supported by both Republican and Democratic leaders was passed last month to delay the law until the end of July. An 81-page bill also backed by lawmakers on both sides removed provisions that would have allowed growing pot as medicine and only allows patients to smoke it provided a physician finds that no other form of marijuana, such as oils or pills, “would be effective in providing the patient therapeutic or palliative benefits.” Deputy State Health Officer Arvy Smith said scrubbing the provision that would allow people to grow their own medical marijuana cut the potential number of users in half, resulting in fewer overall regulations costs for law enforcement.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017 got two more bi-partisan co-sponsors, bringing the total of co-sponsors to fourteen. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Virginia, and Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, joined six other Democrats and six other Republicans in sponsoring the bill. Representatives from legal marijuana states of Colorado, California, Oregon, and Alaska are listed as co-sponsors, but members of Congress from Washington, Massachusetts, Maine, and the District of Columbia are notably missing. Medical marijuana states of Vermont, Michigan, and Florida have a representative co-sponsoring the bill, as well as prohibition states of Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll finds that a majority of Texans support the legalization of at least a small amount of marijuana. Legalization of “small amounts” of marijuana was supported by 32 percent and “any amount” by 21 percent, bringing overall support for personal use legalization to 53 percent. That’s up from 42 percent who agreed with legalization in the same poll two years prior. Back in 2015, almost a quarter (24 percent) of voters opposed legalization for any purpose, including medical, while today’s poll shows that opposition down to 17 percent. Support for medical marijuana sits at 30 percent; presumably, those who support legalization would support medical marijuana, bringing its overall support to 83 percent.

Russ Belville
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Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Russ Belville Show - The Voice of the Marijuana Nation, a two-hour live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on RadicalRuss.com (learn more on our Podcast page).  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 50 North American cities.