June 1, 2017

What is going on with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Roll Out?

June 1, 2017
Arkansas medical marijuana

Amendment 98 (also known as The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, received 53.11% of the popular vote during the November general election. The amendment will allow doctors to recommend the cannabis for patients suffering from specific medical conditions. Arkansas was definitely one of the closer races, as voters supported the amendment in 38 counties and opposed it in 37 counties.

As we have reported, there are many hurdles and and hoops to jump through during the implementation of this new amendment.  Two of them that policy makers, business owners, and law enforcement are dealing with currently are where the medical dispensaries will be located and how police can determine if drivers are impaired because of medical marijuana use.

Where will dispensaries be located in Arkansas?

The State of Arkansas has been divided into 8 zones, and each zone will have 4 medical marijuana dispensaries in it.  This has caused some disagreement between policy makers and business owners.

As reported by The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Mayor Robert “Butch” Berry of Eureka Springs is keen on having one and maybe even two dispensaries in this city.

“I would like to have four if we could get them,” Berry said. “Eureka Springs was originally founded on the basis of its healing waters. … Medical marijuana will dovetail perfectly into what has already been a place to come for rejuvenation and healing,” they reported.

It will be curious to see how some of the more conservative business owners feel about this, both in this zone of the state as well as the other 8.  During the implementation of Measure 91 here in Oregon, I watched several shops get most or all the way through the permitting process, only to be pushed out by a business association or neighborhood association.

How will police be trained to determine if a drive is impaired by medical marijuana use?

This seems to be a hot topic in all states with medical or recreational/adult-use cannabis laws.  TWB has looked into this and many states are using (or thinking of using) roadside saliva swab tests, but there still isn’t a golden answer here.  With the only test comparable (but not really) to this being a breathalyzer that is used to determine if someone is impaired by alcohol use, there is still much research and engineering that needs to be done for a standardized, accurate test.

According to Arkansas Online:

Police can quickly determine if a driver who has been drinking is legally impaired. A breathalyzer test or blood sample that measures 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content or more means a person is intoxicated under the law.

“My top concern is a public safety one — impaired driving related to marijuana use,” Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson said. “It will be difficult since there is no sort of standard field test to determine the level of intoxication.”

Bonnie Atchison, a staff attorney for Rogers, said a blood sample may help determine the level of intoxicants, but there isn’t a specific number pointing to drug intoxication comparable to a blood-alcohol content level.

Certainly police will receive extra training about impaired driving with an Arkansas medical marijuana law now in place.  However, if Arkansas does experience a significant increase in arrests for driving while impaired, my guess is that it would likely be a result of the additional training for officers and not additional drivers.  In a country with cannabis prohibition in place, you can bet that there are plenty of drivers out there driving under the influence of marijuana already.

What’s next?

While citizens of Arkansas can petition for a local option vote to ban dispensaries and cultivation facilities, so far none have proposed local option elections to ban Arkansas medical marijuana facilities (fingers crossed!).  TWB is hopeful that each state that legalizes marijuana will be able to roll out their laws increasingly quicker and with more efficiency, and we hope that Arkansas will not be an exception!



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