An Arkansas Senate committee advanced bills to change the medical marijuana law approved by voters in November by banning smoking medical marijuana and the selling of food or drinks containing the drug, but an effort to halt the start of the program until the drug is legalized nationwide failed.
The Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Wednesday endorsed and sent to the full Senate bills banning the smoking, eating or drinking of marijuana, but allowing a patient or designated caregiver to incorporate marijuana into food or drink for medicinal use.
The smoking bill was proposed by Sen. Jason Rapert. Rapert said allowing the smoking of marijuana would harm public health. Under the measure, smoking medical marijuana wouldn’t be allowed in any location in the state.
“Universally, in the public health community, people will tell you that you should not smoke,” Rapert said.
Some who argued before the panel for the legislation said allowing the smoking of marijuana could lead to recreational use.
Melissa Fults with the Drug Policy Education Group told the committee she understands people’s concern about smoking, but that being able to smoke medical marijuana is beneficial for some patients who need immediate relief.
Rapert’s other bill, a proposal to delay implementation of medical marijuana in Arkansas until the federal government legalizes marijuana use, failed for lack of a motion. Rapert is not a member of the public committee.
Arkansas Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe spoke to the panel about his personal position as a physician on state Sen. Gary Stubblefield’s edible marijuana bill. He spoke in favor of the measure, citing the levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in edibles, and packaging that could possibly be enticing to children.
“It’s been very difficult to determine the THC levels in some of these products,” Bledsoe said.
The House Rules Committee advanced a bill Wednesday