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New ABC director lays out medical marijuana rules before lawmakers

The Medical Marijuana Commission approved the final draft of licensing rules and regulations for cultivation and dispensary facilities.

Members of the Arkansas legislative council heard the rules governing medical marijuana in the state from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the Medical Marijuana Commission and the Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday.

New ABC director Mary Robin Casteel was just appointed to head the agency on Friday, but she's been with the agency the whole time guiding both the ABC and the Medical Marijuana Commission on the rules and regulations over dispensaries and cultivation sites. They’ll begin accepting applications on June 30th.

"We have a lot of work to get done. We have some time to get ramped up in preparation for these facilities to come online. I don't foresee them being operational before the first of the year. So we have an opportunity to get staff in place and make sure that our procedures are workable before marijuana is actually in the state,” Casteel said.

The group of lawmakers still had a lot of questions surrounding medical marijuana, including issues the ABC and the Medical Marijuana Commission aren't even supposed to address.

Some questions, the lawmakers themselves will have tackle in the next legislative session.

One lawmaker brought up there being no prohibition against contractors or construction workers holding medical marijuana cards.

Another lawmaker brought up the question of how law enforcement will be able to tell if someone on medical marijuana is too impaired to drive a vehicle. There are no specific standards to judge how much THC in a person's system equals impairment.

There were also a lot of concerns over edible products amongst the lawmakers.

One lawmaker asked Casteel how many children would have to die before the state outlawed edibles. Casteel answered she hoped none and that they had done their due diligence to make sure the products are not attractive or accessible to children.

Casteel told lawmakers this is a step by step process and that they’ve done all the preparation they can but there will still be issues that arise even as they navigate the process.

"There's no questions there's going to be tweaks. This is a learn as you go thing, hopefully less than more and we've tried to be as thorough looking to other states to cover what we can but we completely understand we'll have to make changes as we go,” Casteel said.

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