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Looking Ahead: Arkansas’s 91st General Assembly

The 91st General Assembly convened on Monday at the State Capitol, and the next two months will likely bring a flurry of new laws to Arkansas.  With over 2,000 bills proposed during the last session, legislators face a similar uphill battle with the 2017 session. From establishing the first medical marijuana program in the South to the future of a Medicaid expansion program, the state faces a myriad of issues.

The Legislature is currently considering bills prohibiting transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with; allowing handguns on college campuses and in the parking lots of private employers; punishing “sanctuary” cities that adopt policies of tolerance toward undocumented immigrants; and amending wage discrimination laws. However, the dominating topic of the 2017 legislative session remains the recently passed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment

The Legislature is considering several bills to amend the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. House Bill 1026 would extend the deadline for the agencies tasked with implementation of the medical marijuana program to adopt rules governing the program from March 2017 to May 2017. HB 1026 would also extend the deadline to begin accepting dispensary and cultivation facility applications from June 1, 2017 to July 1, 2017.

House Bill 1058 would create less stringent requirements for a physician’s written certification of medical marijuana use. HB 1058 would no longer require a physician to state that the potential benefits of using medical marijuana would likely outweigh any health risks for the patient. Physicians would still be required to certify in writing that the patient has a qualifying medical condition. HB 1058 would also clarify that a physician’s written recommendation is not a medical record, and that all records submitted by patients seeking to obtain medical marijuana are exempt from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Both bills were authored by Representative Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, and have already passed the House Rules Committee by unanimous votes.

It is very likely that additional bills concerning the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program will be filed in the coming months. These bills may address employment issues facing the state’s employers, such as how an employer should test for and document that an employee is working “under the influence.”

CGWG attorneys are diligently monitoring and tracking bills addressing medical marijuana in addition to other labor and employment issues.  We provide supervisor training, including recognizing reasonable suspicion signs and symptoms and recommendations for compliance.  Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about legislative issues facing your business practice or policies.  We will continue to keep you updated on labor and employment issues as the 2017 legislative session continues.

To view schedules, committee agendas, bills, and other information related to the 2017 legislative session, visit:  www.arkleg.state.ar.us.