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Feb 22, 2:04 PM EST

Arkansas commission approves medical marijuana rules


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas' Medical Marijuana Commission has approved a final set of rules on how businesses can cultivate and sell the drug.

The rules approved Tuesday will now go up for public comment, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2kMoXCq ) reported. Lawmakers must adopt them no later than May 8. Commissioners are expected to hold a hearing March 31.

Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, the commission's chairman, said questions remain about who would educate patients and ensure safety.

"People who want it are thinking about the relief that it provides them," she said. "Others are thinking dollar signs and business plans, but ... the safety of that individual has to be considered as well."

Lawmakers and Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved a bill removing a requirement in the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment that physicians certify "the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient."

The bill's sponsor Republican Rep. Douglas House said the change was necessary to get physicians to participate, since there aren't medical marijuana guidelines in place that would help them weigh the pros and cons of a particular patient's use of the drug.

In December, the commission determined to allow for 32 dispensaries and five cultivation facilities. The commission will choose growers based on their applications' merits. Dispensaries would be able to grow up to 50 "mature" plants.

An application to become a grower is expected to cost $15,000. Applicants not chosen would receive $7,500 back, and successful applicants would have to pay an annual $100,000 licensing fee.

Dispensaries not growing marijuana would pay an annual licensing fee of $2,500. While dispensaries growing their own plants would have to pay an annual fee of $25,000.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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