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Arkansas' Medical Marijuana Amendment Includes Protections for Employers
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 7:00 AM

Since it was approved by 53 percent of the Arkansas voters in November 2016, the Medical Marijuana Amendment (Issue 6) has been added to the Arkansas Constitution. Then during this year’s legislative session legislators passed 24 laws that made changes to the amendment. The legislative law changes required a two-thirds vote under the terms of the amendment.

According to Ron Harrod, Arkansas Credit Union Association lobbyist, credit unions need to revisit their drugs and alcohol policy to add a "medical marijuana" section before the dispensing of various products begins.

HB1460 (Act 593) – To amend the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 regarding employee protections and employee safety.
Act 593 has a range of protections for employers, Harrod says. For instance, one provision is that employers are not prohibited from implementing substance abuse or drug-free workplace policies, including drug testing.

It also says employers do not face a cause of action if they act on a good-faith belief that an employee used marijuana during work hours or on the employer’s premises or if the employer excludes the employee from a safety sensitive position because the employee is using marijuana. The employer can reassign, suspend, or terminate employees, or they can refuse to hire them.

Download the PDF of Act 593 here.

Becoming familiar with the law in Act 593 includes understanding the following:

  • Page 2, Line 21, Defines “Employer.”
  • Page 3, starting with line 20, defines “Safety sensitive position.”
  • Page 4, starting with Line 6, defines “Under the influence.”
  • Page 4, Section 3 (through page 6).

Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution
The amendment to the Arkansas Constitution is 23 pages. Download the PDF of the amendment here.

Under §2. Definitions. On page 2, (13) “qualifying medical conditions” is defined as one of the following 13 items:

  1. Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, or the treatment of these conditions:
  2. A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than six months; severe nausea; seizures, including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; and
  3. Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health under 4 of this amendment;

§3. Protection for the medical use of marijuana.

  1. A qualifying patient or designated caregiver in actual possession of a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner or denied any right or privilege, including without limitation a civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business, occupational or professional licensing board or bureau for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with this amendment if the qualifying patient or designated caregiver possesses not more than two and one-half ounces (2-1/2 oz.) of usable marijuana.

(f)(3) [page 4]. An employer shall not discriminate against an individual in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize an individual based upon the individual’s past or present status as a qualified patient or designated caregiver.

The Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), Arkansas State Board of Health, Review of the Rules and Regulations Governing Medical Marijuana Registration, Testing, and Labeling in Arkansas are still working on Rules and Regulation. They are looking at granting 32 dispensary licenses and five cultivation facilities licenses.

The Medical Marijuana Commission has set June 20 to issue public notice that they will start accepting applications for those businesses starting June 30. Then that application process will last 90 days. So, when we look at that time table, it will be later before they start selling products at the licensed dispensaries. This gives you time to develop your policy.

If you need additional information, please contact Ron Harrod at 501-944-3068 or rharrod@sbcglobal.net.