Committee votes to ban marijuana edibles, some smoking

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 456 views 

The House Rules Committee voted Wednesday (March 15) to ban the sale of marijuana edibles and to ban marijuana smoking in certain places and situations.

House Bill 1392 by Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, would ban the sale of edible marijuana products but would allow caregivers to prepare edible products for patients at home. It passed on a voice vote with no opposition.

Rules by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division require the products to be produced and packaged in childproof containers in ways that won’t appeal to children. But Lundstrum said products such as chocolates, cookies and brownies could be consumed by children. She said marijuana will be available in a variety of products.

“We need to slow down and let medical marijuana be medicine,” she said.

Melissa Fults, a marijuana activist and head of the Drug Policy Education Group, argued that some patients benefit most from edible products, which she said last the longest and can help patients sleep. She said correctly preparing the products can be difficult, while a regulated marijuana dispensary would accurately determine and label the dosage.

Members of the committee also voted for House Bill 1400 by Lundstrum, which would ban marijuana smoking in the same places where tobacco smoking is banned, in the presence of children up to 14, inside motor vehicles, and in places where smoking marijuana could influence another person. Smoking marijuana for medical use would be illegal for anyone under 21. The bill passed on a voice vote with Fults’ blessing.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment, passed by voters in November, can be amended with a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. The committee voted against House Bill 1391 by Lundstrum, which would have allowed city councils and quorum courts to place before local voters ordinances that would ban cultivation and distribution facilities in their localities.

Not long after members of the committee voted to prohibit marijuana smoking for people under 21, they voted against House Bill 1711 by Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, which would raise the legal age for smoking tobacco from the current age 18 to 21. The ban would also apply to alternative nicotine products and vapor products.

Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Arkansas Department of Health director, said young people are more susceptible to becoming addicted to tobacco. He said smokers ages 18-21 purchase only 2% of tobacco products but provide 90% of the products used by those under 18.

However, Scout Stubbs with the Arkansas Vape Advocacy Alliance, who also owns two vapor products establishments, said the products had helped her quit using tobacco and shouldn’t be restricted to those under 21.

“According to this bill, being an adult means you can go to war and die for your country, but you cannot purchase a personal vaporizer for the benefit of your own health,” she said.