Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission member James Miller said Wednesday that he plans to resign from the commission Tuesday to focus his time and energy on his family and career.
Miller, a lobbyist who was appointed to the panel by Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, has two years remaining in his term, but he said the time he's had to devote to commission work has taken away from time with his newly adopted daughter.
Two other commissioners -- Stephen Carroll and Dr. Carlos Roman -- will leave the commission at the end of the year when their two-year terms expire. The commission has five members appointed by different officials.
Miller said he intended to serve a two-year term, but when he and Roman, Dismang's other appointee, drew from a hat to determine the lengths of their terms, Miller drew the four-year term.
Miller was one of the commission's inaugural members, and he and other commissioners graded the first applications for licenses to grow medical marijuana in Arkansas.
"I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the commission for these past two years," Miller wrote in a resignation letter to Dismang. "I feel like the most important and difficult work of the commission has been done and I am proud of what we accomplished. At this time, I need to focus all of my time and energy on my daughter, my family and my career."
Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution, which legalized medical marijuana, was approved by voters in 2016. Amendment 98 created the Medical Marijuana Commission to oversee the licensing of medical cannabis growers and sellers.
The first cultivation licenses were issued in July, and the commission expects to issue the first dispensary licenses later this month.
The commission has been under constant attack from patient groups and medical marijuana businesses over how it has handled the rollout of Arkansas' medical cannabis program.
Miller was one of the only commissioners who wasn't attacked by unsuccessful applicants in a lawsuit that was filed in March. The suit challenges the process for grading applications for cultivation licenses.
Clients of Miller's lobbying firm include the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, Arkansas Railroad Association, Bad Boy Mowers and Association of Dental Support Organizations.
Dismang said he'll let Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, who is taking over as the next Senate president pro tempore, appoint Miller's and Roman's replacements. House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, will appoint Carroll's replacement.
Hendren said he has begun thinking about who he should appoint, but he hadn't made a decision as of Wednesday evening. He said he is looking for someone who is "competent and without blemish and who can take the heat that's going to come."
Hendren said he plans to appoint a replacement in the coming weeks, so the commission will be at full strength.
"I think it's important the commission has a full board, so it can get its work done," Hendren said, adding that the medical marijuana program's rollout has taken too long.
State officials expect the drug to be available by April.
Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Metro on 12/06/2018