Legislature Proposes $7.5M for Marijuana Expenses in 2021-2022

Earlier this month the Joint Budget Committee at the state legislature proposed two measures appropriating a total of $7,500,000 to pay for expenses from medical marijuana in Arkansas.

H.B. 1072 budgets $2.5 million for the Medical Marijuana Commission Fund to cover refunds, reimbursements, and contingency expenses.

H.B. 1106 budgets $5 million for the various state agencies responsible for implementing and regulating medical marijuana in Arkansas.

As we have written before, medical marijuana has cost Arkansas taxpayers millions of dollars.

Since May of 2019, the State of Arkansas has garnered approximately $21 million in marijuana tax revenue.

Of that money, only about $13 million has gone to the state to pay for the medical marijuana program’s expenses.

However, the state already has spent over $32 million on medical marijuana.

In Fiscal Year 2018 the Arkansas Legislature appropriated $5 million for the implementation of “medical” marijuana.

In Fiscal Year 2019 they appropriated another $5 million.

In Fiscal Year 2020 they passed two measures appropriating approximately $11.6 million total for the program.

And last year the legislature passed two measures budgeting more than $10.6 million for medical marijuana in 2021.

In other words, despite high marijuana sales, Arkansas taxpayers are still millions of dollars in the hole when it comes to medical marijuana.

An Overview of Legislation

Our team is working on a lot of legislation related to abortion, alcohol expansion, religious liberty, fiscal policy, and other issues.

Here’s a brief snapshot of some of the measures we are monitoring and working on at the Arkansas Legislature.

Good Bills Filed

Sen. Rapert (above) is one of the sponsors of S.B. 6.

S.B. 6 (Prohibiting Abortion): This good bill by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) prohibits abortion in Arkansas, except in cases when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Family Council fully supports this good bill. Family Council is working closely with Sen. Rapert to pass this good bill that could save the lives of thousands of children and give the courts an opportunity to overturn decades of bad, pro-abortion rulings. Read The Bill Here.

H.C.R. 1007 (Abortion): This good resolution by Rep. Jim Wooten (R – Beebe) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) recognizes January 22—the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision—as “The Day of Tears” in Arkansas. The resolution acknowledges the 61 million of unborn babies killed in abortion in America over the past five decades, and encourages Arkansans to lower their flags to half-staff on January 22 to mourn the innocent children who have lost their lives. Read The Resolution Here.

S.B. 85 (Abortion): This good bill by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) and Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) requires an abortionist to show an ultrasound image of the unborn baby to the pregnant woman before an abortion. Currently, Arkansas law says an abortionist must offer to let the woman see the ultrasound image. Research indicates that some women are less likely to have an abortion once they see an ultrasound image of their unborn child. That means pro-life bills like S.B. 85 can help further decrease the number of abortions in Arkansas. Arkansas Right to Life is the chief proponent of this bill, and we fully support their efforts. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1116 (Simon’s Law): This good bill by Rep. Jim Dotson (R – Bentonville) and Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs) is named in honor of an infant in Missouri who died after doctors put a Do Not Resuscitate order on his chart without his parent’s knowledge or permission. If passed, it would protect children in Arkansas from being denied life support or having a DNR placed on their medical charts without parental consent. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1160 (Used Car Tax): This good bill by Rep. John Payton (R – Wilburn) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) would eliminate the tax on used cars sold for less than $7,500; the bill contains a provision that would take effect in 2023 eliminating the tax on used cars sold for less than $10,000. Family Council has worked for years to eliminate the used car tax, because it hurts single moms and middle class families who often can barely afford to buy a used vehicle, much less pay sales tax on one. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1211 (Religion is Essential): This good bill by Representative Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) and Senator Kim Hammer (R – Benton) recognizes that religion and religious organizations are essential in Arkansas. H.B. 1211 will protect churches and religious groups without hampering the government’s ability to respond during a pandemic. Read The Bill Here.

Bad Bills Filed

H.B. 1228 (Public Drinking): This bad bill by Rep. Lee Johnson (R – Greenwood) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) would let cities in dry counties to approve public drinking in “entertainment districts” if the city contains a private club that serves alcohol. Under Arkansas’ “entertainment district” law, alcohol can be carried and consumed outdoors on city streets and sidewalks around bars and restaurants, if approved by the city council. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 3 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Sen. Jim Hendren (R – Gravette) and Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to H.B. 1020. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1020 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) and Sen. Jim Hendren (R – Gravette) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to S.B. 3. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1069  (Contraceptives): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) lets pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor. Oral contraceptives carry a number of health risks — which is why women currently need a prescription from a doctor — and they can cause the death of an unborn child by preventing the unborn child from implanting and growing inside the mother’s womb. As of January 13, 2021, Family Council opposes H.B. 1069, but we are prepared to offer Rep. Pilkington amendments to the bill that would address our concerns. Read The Bill Here.

H.B. 1066 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) would let microbrewery operators ship beer directly to private residences anywhere in the state of Arkansas or to residences in other states that allow direct shipment of alcohol. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. Read The Bill Here.

Other Bills We Are Watching

S.B. 32 (Alcohol): This bill by Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock) and Rep. Karilyn Brown (R – Sherwood) would let retail liquor permit holders — such as liquor stores — deliver alcoholic beverages to private residences in the county where the store is located. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 76 (Alcohol): This bill by Sen. Lance Eads (R – Springdale) and Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) lets “excursion trains” serve alcoholic beverages to passengers. Read The Bill Here.

President Biden Signs Executive Order Redefining “Sex” in Federal Law

On Wednesday night President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing all federal agencies to interpret the word federal “sex” in anti-discrimination laws to include sexual-orientation and gender-identity.

This tracks with promises President Biden made during the presidential campaign to reinstate many of the pro-LGBT rules and guidelines that the Obama Administration rolled out prior to 2017.

The new executive order instructs all state agencies to evaluate and amend or rescind any rules or regulations that conflict with the Biden Administration’s redefinition of “sex.”

If left unchecked by congress and the states, this could result in federal agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, OSHA, and the Department of Justice rolling out new policies that affect businesses and force pro-LGBT policies on ordinary Americans.