We’ve noted a few times this week that Sen. Jason Rapert has been blowing smoke about trying to take legislative action to upend the medical marijuana amendment that voters approved adding to the state constitution in November.
The law has harshed Rapert’s mellow because it stands in contradiction to federal law, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 drug.
He announced today that he is filing a bill, SB238, that would halt enactment of the medical marijuana amendment unless and until the federal government changes the law and makes it legal.
“When I took office I swore an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Arkansas,” Rapert said in a statement released via the Senate Information Office. “I do not intend to break my oath. … If ‘medicinal marijuana’ is to proceed in Arkansas, it must be legal under U.S. law as well. Thank you for understanding that my oath is important to me.”
The General Assembly can amend the amendment with a two thirds vote.
Rapert’s bill is not yet available on the General Assembly website but according to his statement it will state the following: “The effective date of the legalization of marijuana within the state of Arkansas for medical purposes shall be the date on which no provisions of the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016″, nor any provisions of its enabling legislation, are in violation of the United States federal statutory law.”
Rolling up his sleeves, Rapert also announced that he has sent a request for an opinion to the Attorney General. Well. It’s more opining than seeking an opinion. But he asks whether voting on legislation that implements the Medical Marijuana Act would violate federal law, whether members should refrain from casting such votes “to ensure they do not violate their oaths of office,” and whether he might be able to seek relief from federal court from having to cast such a vote.
Rapert’s full statement after the jump:
In November of 2016 the voters of Arkansas passed Issue 6, also known as the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016”.
The amendment has a provision allowing the General Assembly to amend the constitutional amendment by a 2/3 vote. Many issues were not specifically addressed in the amendment and therefore numerous bills to address those issues are now being considered by legislators.
One very critical issue is the fact that marijuana is completely illegal under United States federal law. When I took office I swore an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Arkansas. I do not intend to break my oath. Marijuana is illegal under the Federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which also declares marijuana has no medicinal benefit. The federal law must be changed for Arkansas to legally allow marijuana – this is due to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, I am filing a bill today that would amend the Medical Marijuana Amendment. The bill says:
“The effective date of the legalization of marijuana within the state of Arkansas for medical purposes shall be the date on which no provisions of the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016″, nor any provisions of its enabling legislation, are in violation of the United States federal statutory law.”
I am for the will of the people in Arkansas being heard. I am not for violating clear federal law and being complicit with breaking U.S. law by promulgating statutes that are illegal. If and when the U.S. Law is amended to allow marijuana, I will join people who want to pursue valid uses of marijuana extracts that may have medicinal purposes to help relieve suffering from illness, disease or sickness. I am not with those who simply want to recreationally smoke marijuana and use “medicinal marijuana” as a charade for easy access to a drug that under federal law is illegal. Regardless, federal law prevails and we can do nothing about that without a change to the federal law.
Arkansas voters approved constitutional amendments to ban abortions and define marriage between one man and one woman, but their votes and the Arkansas constitution were struck down due to a conflict with U.S. case law.
For the same reason, conflicts with federal law do not allow us to enforce the Medical Marijuana amendment until there is a change in federal law. We should have no laws at all if they are not going to be respected.
I was against Issue 6. I believe certain “big money lobbyists” took advantage of the people of Arkansas. They do not truly care about the small portion of people who seek relief for medicinal purposes. They have simply cloaked their billion dollar marijuana business in a clever package claiming it to be “medicinal marijuana”. The people of Arkansas thought they were going to allow marijuana for medicinal purposes, not erect a façade behind which anyone can obtain a marijuana card for any purpose, anyone can smoke marijuana in public without any controls, and employers have no control over employees using marijuana on the job. As it stands now, anyone can become a “caregiver” to buy marijuana for other people, in effect becoming legal drug dealers.
Numerous Arkansas laws have been struck down by courts that ruled they were in conflict with U.S. law. In situations where case law is in question, there will always be test cases. In this matter we have clear statutes that were passed by Congress making marijuana illegal. I took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Arkansas and I hope my colleagues will join me in understanding this clear issue. If “medicinal marijuana” is to proceed in Arkansas, it must be legal under U.S. law as well. Thank you for understanding that my oath is important to me.