By William Stash Jones
Oregon Cannabis Connection
March 28, 2017 — Arkansas has taken the dramatic step of introducing legislation that will require every medical marijuana dispensary in the newly legal state to staff a “Pharmacy Consultant” to help answer questions from patients and to assist dispensaries. It passed the House on March 28th with a vote of 81 to 8 with 2 voting present.
The bill, House Bill 2190, was introduced by Clint Penzo and includes a provision to protect pharmacists from any liability for assisting a pharmacy as a consultant. The bill states:
“A pharmacist 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 the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy or by any other business, occupational, or professional licensing board or bureau, solely for performing his or her duties as a pharmacist consultant for a registered dispensary.”
The Arkansas Pharmacists Association thinks its a great idea, even though they were a vocal opponent to the medical legalization measure during the November election. Their CEO Scott Pace told KFSM 5 News in Fort Smith, “We think it’s common sense legislation that will make sure that public safety is first”.
The bill would intend to train dispensary personnel on the risks and side effects of marijuana and also to look for substance abuse warning signs. The pharmacist would not be required to be present as long as they are readily available to answer questions by phone or video conference.
In addition to the pharmacist provision, the bill also requires that dispensaries have vaporizers available for patients to purchase so they have an alternative to full combustion of the cannabis and have a “cleaner” delivery method.
On March 28th, the legislature powered through a string of bills rapidly all afternoon. When they arrived at this bill, well over 30 minutes of debate broke out. Most of the legislators spoke in favor of the bill, including Rep. Robin Lundstrom who explained:
“This is medical marijuana, we are treating it like medicine, and were putting in, at least, a speed bump…At least someone that the patient can consult with and get a little help. I think it’s a good bill. It’s a start. Is it perfect? No. But it is a start towards treating medical marijuana like medicine.”
However, one representative had concerns relating to the requirement of a pharmacist, the undue influence of the Pharmacy Association on passing the bill, and even brought up the relationship between opioid abuse and cannabis, and how it a conflict for pharmacists to help dispense medical marijuana. All of these concerns were brought up by Rep. Douglas House during his argument against the bill. House explained:
“Where are you going to get 32 pharmacists to leave Walgreens or CVS or Bob’s Drug Store and go off to a marijuana dispensary and spend all day long waiting for someone to walk in to talk about their drug situation. They can’t establish that. Where are the rules and regulations from the Pharmacy Board that are supposed to govern these folks. They’re not here. They haven’t even been brought into this discussion. This is like I said it’s just a ‘germ’ of a good idea.”
The bill goes to the Arkansas Senate for consideration, and is likely to pass there. Then it goes on to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk to be signed. Being the former DEA Administrator under George W. Bush, will most likely sign the bill.
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