From Potables to Pot, ABC Chief Doralee Chandler Stays Focused

From Potables to Pot, ABC Chief Doralee Chandler Stays Focused
Doralee Chandler 
Director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division (Jason Burt)

Doralee Chandler was appointed director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division in November 2018 by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Before coming to the ABC, Chandler was the first general counsel for the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, having served in that post since September 2015. Before that, she spent 17 years working for the Little Rock law firm of Matthews Sanders & Sayes. In 2017, Chandler was named to a five-year term on the Arkansas Parent Counsel Commission, where she currently serves as commission chair.

Chandler received her undergraduate degree from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and her law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.

How has the ABC staffed up to enforce marijuana law?
The addition of medical marijuana to the ABC resulted in an increase in staffing to not only implement the program but also to enforce the regulations.

During the application process the entire office assisted in accepting and reviewing applications for compliance. However, we have one staff attorney and one legal assistant dedicated to medical marijuana implementation, including assisting with the drafting of rules, Freedom of Information Act requests and issuing employee cards.

Currently, I am handling all violations surrounding the licensing of the medical marijuana entities. Once the implementation process is completed, our dedicated marijuana staff will assist in the adjudication of reported violations.

What is the most challenging aspect of regulating the new marijuana industry?
I would consider the unknowns at this stage in Arkansas’ marijuana industry to be the most challenging. This is a new industry to Arkansas, and while other states have legalized marijuana, there are aspects to our state and our laws that set Arkansas apart from others.

The implementation of the industry within our state has been a challenge, but now that the cultivator and dispensary licenses have been issued, the focus and challenge have shifted toward the unknowns of meeting demand, assuring the residents of Arkansas are receiving the quality of product they seek for their qualifying condition, and assuring that medical marijuana is accessible to those with a patient card while overseeing the industry’s compliance with the ABC’s rules and regulations.

Medical marijuana is new to the state. What resources have you used to educate yourself about the industry, for example, officials in other states, trade groups?
As an attorney I have access to learned speakers and literature through continuing education classes that have provided guidance as to the economic, social and scientific aspects of the industry. This guidance has been provided by state officials and industry experts. I have also had the opportunity, since taking over as director three months ago, to consult and collaborate with numerous state agencies and employees regarding the implementation process and the continuing oversight of medical marijuana in Arkansas.

Of course, the ABC also still regulates alcoholic beverages, a role that also can result in controversy. How do you keep yourself focused on the job?
When I accepted the position as director of the ABC, I took an oath of office to enforce the laws of the state of Arkansas as delegated by the General Assembly and the ABC Board in relation to not only medical marijuana, but also alcoholic beverages. I am dedicated to giving 100 percent to this position, but as the old adage goes, I take one day at a time and take it one step at a time whether I am dealing with medical marijuana or alcoholic beverages.