Five members of Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission appointed (Updated)

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 505 views 

The five members of the Medical Marijuana Commission who will control regulations for cultivation and distribution of the plant were announced Wednesday by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, and Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy.

Hutchinson appointed Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, of Little Rock. Gillam appointed Dr. Stephen Carroll, a pharmacist from Benton, and Travis Story, a Fayetteville attorney. Dismang appointed James Miller of Bryant and Dr. J. Carlos Roman, a Little Rock physician.

The commission’s members will control regulations for cultivation and distribution of the plant to qualifying patients, establish a system to administer and regulate dispensary licenses, and set conditions and requirements for patients and physicians.

Their first meeting must occur within 15 days but has not yet been set.

UPDATED: Hutchinson said the commissioners would be required to do a lot of work to create a regulatory framework. They are responsible for licensing 20-40 dispensaries and four to eight cultivation facilities. They also will set requirements for physicians and patients. As part of the amendment, they cannot have any involvement with the marijuana industry. None were at the press conference.

Hutchinson said the three elected officials did communicate with each other regarding the type of people who would be needed on the commission.

Though now legal for medicinal use in Arkansas, marijuana remains illegal as a controlled substance under federal law, but the Obama administration made it clear it was taking a hands-off approach. Hutchinson, an attorney and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, noted that difficulty. While President-elect Donald Trump has indicated support for medical marijuana, his nominee for attorney general, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, is an opponent. Hutchinson said the state must respond to the legal environment as it exists and if it changes.

“Until we get a change of policy from Washington, we proceed on with the will of the people in this regard,” he said.

He said he and Sessions served as U.S. attorneys together and know each other well.

All three officials said they voted against the amendment, and Dismang revealed that his two appointees, Miller and Roman, also voted against it. Hutchinson and Gillam declined to reveal how their appointees voted.

Still, Hutchinson said, “The people spoke, and it’s our responsibility to take the steps necessary to implement in a fair and responsible way the amendment that was passed by the people of Arkansas.”

Dismang said, “It’s not my goal to put my thumbprint on this.”

Hutchinson said he would be inclined to favor a lottery system, as occurs with alcohol, in awarding cultivation permits.

“I think that is something we have experience with, I think it’s fair, and it would avoid having huge businesses come in and dominate it,” he said.