Arkansas governor signs two medical cannabis bills into law

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed two medical marijuana bills this week that will make it easier for doctors to recommend MMJ and pushed back the deadline for rulemaking governing the new program.

The first measure, House Bill 1026, extends the deadline for rules to be finalized to 180 days from 120 days after last November’s election, when Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the new MMJ program, Little Rock TV station KATV reported.

That means the launch of the Arkansas MMJ program will be delayed by at least two months.

The physician-related legislation, meanwhile, loosens the requirement governing a doctor’s ability to certify that a patient has a medical condition that can be treated through MMJ, according to KATV.

The measure, House Bill 1058, is intended to help doctors feel more comfortable about recommending MMJ, a move that could boost the patient count in a southern state with a strong stigma against cannabis.

Responding to concerns among physicians, KATV noted that House Bill 1058 removes language in the MMJ state ballot initiative requiring doctors to provide written certification that cannabis’ potential health benefits would outweigh the risks for a patient.

The state health department will be responsible for issuing MMJ patient cards that allow people to buy medical cannabis.

Both bills required a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the legislature because they change a constitutional amendment.