In 1923, Arkansas made cannabis illegal, and that didn’t change for nearly 100 years. It was not until 2016 that medical marijuana was declared legal. That was certainly a huge and long overdue victory, but that does not necessarily mean that marijuana has a bright future in the Natural State. Arkansas still has some of the most draconian punishments for weed possession in America. Keep reading to find out more about Arkansas’ marijuana laws.
Cannabis for Medical Use in Arkansas
Even though the legalization of medical marijuana, called Issue 6, passed in 2016, there was an attempt to legalize it in 2012 that ended in failure. The passage of the current bill was not met without resistance, as many Arkansas legislators started adding restrictions. It was not repealed, but it added several limitations, such as who can use cannabis and how it can be used.
Some of those new limitations make sense, like using weed in front of a child younger than 14, and making the packaging of all cannabis products child-proof. However, many of the amendments are unduly harsh and seem designed to have as few people as possible using medical marijuana. For example, one of the addendums allows public schools to prevent students from attending school if they are suspected of using medical marijuana.
Another addition to Issue 6 prevents members of the Arkansas National Guard or US Military from becoming qualified patients, or caregivers to qualified patients. This addition also bans the use of weed on property that is controlled by the National Guard or the military. Another addition is that employers can suspend or fire any employees they believe to be using marijuana in herb, wax, or THC oil form.
How to Obtain a Medical Marijuana Card in Arkansas
- The patient must be diagnosed with a condition that is covered by the bill, this includes, but is not limited to:
- Tourette’s syndrome
- The patient must have all of the following: A Physician Written Certificate from their doctor, a driver’s license or Arkansas ID, a debit or credit card to pay the $50 fee, and a valid e-mail address.
- The patient should then go to the Arkansas Department of Health’s AMMSys Online System to start the application process.
- Once the application process is completed and the payment submitted, the review process to grant the patient a medical marijuana card begins.
Cannabis for Recreational Use in Arkansas
That status should probably be very illegal. Arkansas has some of the harshest punishments for marijuana possession in the country. Even first time offenders face severe punishment for possessing a small amount of weed. This is disproportionate to most of the country. At least CBD based products are legally available in AR, since they do not have any psychoactive effects.
There have been several propositions to lighten some of the penalties, but they have mostly been unsuccessful. The only successful proposition has been one that allows judges to grant parole to first time offenders instead of a conviction. This is an improvement, but it still means that too many people get unduly punished for something that other states have legalized.
Charges and Penalties
|Offense||Penalty||Maximum Incarceration||Maximum Penalty|
|Possession of less than 4 ounces - First offense||Class A Misdemeanor||1 year or less||$2500|
|Possession of 1 ounce to less than 4 ounces - Second offense||Class D Felony||6 years or less||$10,000|
|Possession of 4 ounces to less than 10 pounds||Class D Felony||6 years or less||$10,000|
Where Do Arkansas Marijuana Laws Go Now?
With the passage of Arkansas’ medical marijuana laws, the state’s dim view of cannabis has lightened up a little. However, this newfound enlightenment only extends to the use of medical marijuana. The recreational use of weed, whether it is smoked or vaped, is still susceptible to Arkansas’ harsh drug penalties.
It is unlikely that Arkansas will legalize or decriminalize the casual use of cannabis anytime soon, but there is still a chance that the sentencing and penalties could get reduced. Medical marijuana could also be the salvation of some of the state’s poorest towns. The state’s medical marijuana laws encourage legal weed growers to establish their business in the poorer communities to provide them with more job opportunities.
If the legalization of medical marijuana does end up helping those impoverished towns, then maybe Arkansas could see fit to ease some of the harsher penalties it inflicts on recreational marijuana users. We have to wait and see, but it is encouraging that a state with such harsh cannabis penalties is attempting to use cannabis to help people in so many different ways.