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State officials expect 20K-40K medical marijuana registrants

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas officials are anticipating that between 20,000 and 40,000 people will ask for permission to obtain medical marijuana.

The state Health Department's chief lawyer, Robert Brech, told a joint meeting of the Senate and House Public Health Committee on Monday that running Arkansas' medical marijuana program will cost about $1.5 million over the next year.

Medical marijuana registration cards will cost about $50. Under the proposed rules, an Arkansas driver's license or state ID will be required to obtain one.

Arkansas' population is about 3 million people. According to Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson, there are 18,232 medical marijuana patients in that state. Connecticut has a population of about 3.6 million.

Brech said there had been some debate about requiring a state ID to get a registration card.

"Some people objected to that because they think it's a good opportunity for Arkansas to become a medical marijuana tourist destination," Brech said.

Brech said the Justice Department made it clear that states with a medical marijuana program should ensure that it does not flow into states where similar measures have not been passed.

Brech cited a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs from Oklahoma and Kansas against Colorado over that state's legalization of marijuana.

The Supreme Court declined to hear a separate lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska saying marijuana from Colorado was being brought illegally into their states.

Brech said the ID requirement was an effort to avoid issues such as the one that arose among those states.

Voters last year approved marijuana use by people with certain medical conditions. The state will soon begin accepting applications from potential growers and dispensaries.

The joint committee also reviewed regulations for testing and labeling marijuana. The rules will now go before a legislative subcommittee.

State Desk on 06/06/2017

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