Arkansas' state flag flying before a cloudless sky.

Adam Bartlett

Officials in Arkansas have taken the first steps in the implementation of the state’s newly minted medical cannabis program, according to a Free Weekly report. Gov. Ava Hutchinson is asking for $3 million to fund the program’s rollout and over the course of the next month the governor, along with legislative leaders, will start appointing the five members to the newly formed Medical Marijuana Commission.

“The people voted this in and I intend to implement it according to the will of the people of Arkansas,” Hutchinson, a former DEA director, said in an Associated Press report. “But the people of Arkansas expect me to do it right, to do it in a way that protects our children and to do it in a way that minimizes the problems we’ve been very concerned about. That’s what the regulations are about.”

Under the law, the commission, along with the state Department of Health and Beverage Control Division, has to begin accepting dispensary applications in June 2017, leaving officials until about March to devise the program’s rules and regulations. The amendment permits for between 20 and 40 dispensaries, with no more than four in a single county, testing labs and cultivation licenses.

Just 12 conditions qualify for medical cannabis use in the state — including post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and cancer — and patients can apply for a state-issued certification allowing them to purchase cannabis from a dispensary. Patients could also choose to designate a caregiver to obtain their cannabis for them. Neither patients nor caregivers can purchase more than 2.5 ounces within a 14 day timeframe and the Health Department is responsible for adding any additional conditions.

Meanwhile, some opponents are shifting their focus from any repeal effort — which would require a two-thirds vote by the legislature — to adding restrictions on advertising and zoning options for municipalities.

The measure does not allow Lawmakers to pass any legislation to limit the number of dispensaries or rescind the voter-backed constitutional amendment.

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