House medical marijuana amendment could quicken pace for new licenses

Vials of medical marijuana oil

Senate leaders have cautioned that a more conservative implementation scheme could trigger lawsuits from medical marijuana advocates. More than 71 percent of voters approved the amendment in November.

Under the House bill - and the Senate-passed version - high-level state employees and candidates for statewide office and the Legislature, as well as their spouses, would have to disclose sources of income.

Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell, said he preferred that the Senate measure its support for a solution before the House weighed in.

- The state House of Representatives approved a bill 74-68 on its second reading Tuesday (May 2) evening that would make personal possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Several budget bills are now being considered and evaluated by the Senate Appropriations and House A&B Committees to help shore up the almost $900 million shortfall.

The budget-and-tax debate has been rendered complex by an obligation to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding into K-12 public school districts to satisfy a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that the state's system of financing education was unconstitutional. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said he didn't disagree with the substance as much as the fact that it was being rushed through the Law and Justice Committee with the hearing and the vote on the same day.

But with everyone fighting over the number of licenses, who's trying to make sure patients can actually get what they voted for? "Who are we to tell legitimate patients they can not smoke their cannabis? That's not our business, members".

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"I think we're honoring the taxpayers who believe in fiscal stewardship", he said.

"If you receive these benefits from your employer, you're one of the privileged few", Stevens said.

How many dispensaries the marijuana treatment centers are allowed to open remains the main sticking point between the two chambers.

If passed the Senate plan would specifically increase tuition tax credits from $850 for a four-year school and $350 for a tech school to $1,500 for both, Bennett explained.

Across the aisle, though, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) says the bill is still too restrictive when it comes to treating pain. It would automatically give the potentially very lucrative license to the seven growers now licensed under a more limited cannabis program, plus 10 new growers right off the bat. House Bill 3276, sponsored by State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, aims to clarity the status of these facilities in order to help patients avoid surprise bills later on.

McDaniel said he had no additional comment Wednesday, but he referred a reporter to a statement sent last week: "The Ross Group strictly complies with the laws of every state and country in which it operates, and Arkansas will be no different. Patients will be driven to the black market", said Ben Pollara, who managed the campaign to get the constitutional amendment passed. And that bill landed with a thud in a Republican-led Senate that has agreed that some reform needs to happen but seems largely uninterested in substantively hiking taxes on the industry.

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