On November 8, 2016, voters in Arkansas voted in favor of Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. The vote legalized medical marijuana and allowed patients with qualifying conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to buy, possess and use medical marijuana. As of May 21, 2022, the state has 82,338 active medical marijuana cards.
But, will we see Arkansas recreational marijuana in 2022? The people are not stopping at MMJ, and all signs point toward legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
Medical Marijuana: An Incentive for Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Arkansas
Medical marijuana has also proved to be a revenue money-spinner for Arkansas. In 2021, Scott Hardin, a spokesman with the Department of Finance and Administration, said that Arkansas residents were on track to spend about $500 million on medical marijuana by the end of that year.
He states, “Here we are, into the program a couple of years, and Arkansans, I think by the end of this year, will be pushing right around $500 million spent on medical marijuana. For a small state in a really strictly, tightly controlled program, I think 500 million really exceeds our expectations, to say the least.”
The amazing thing is that while voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, the first dispensary opened in May 2019. A couple of years into the program, medical marijuana was already doing huge sales and tax numbers. As of 2021, Arkansas had collected about $52million in taxes on medical marijuana.
If medical marijuana can pull in these numbers with just over 82,000 patients, imagine those figures if they legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
Presently, campaigners are actively engaged in efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas, and we’re keeping tabs on developments. This piece will track efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
Is Recreational Marijuana Legal in Arkansas?
Not yet. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Arkansas, but it won’t stay illegal for long if campaigners have their way.
For now, you can only possess and consume cannabis with an AR medical marijuana card. If you’re not a medical marijuana patient, you’ll face the consequences of the law.
Arkansas has one of the most stringent marijuana laws in the country. Possession of fewer than 4 ounces or 110 grams is a Class A demeanor. This is punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500. Offenders caught with 1 ounce or 28 grams who have two prior convictions commit a Class D felony, and it is punishable by a fine of up to $6,000 and a maximum of six years in prison.
Also, Arkansas applies the Solomon-Lautenberg amendment. This means marijuana possession attracts mandatory suspension of the offender’s Driver’s license for six months.
LEARN MORE: Arkansas Medical Marijuana Laws
Municipal Marijuana Reforms
While recreational marijuana in Arkansas is illegal, municipalities have taken steps towards decriminalization.
In 2006, voters in Eureka Springs voted to reduce marijuana law enforcement to the lowest police priority. Then, Fayetteville followed suit with a similar initiative in 2008.
In 2021, the Board of Little Rock voted that “investigations, citations, arrests, property seizures, etc. for adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses” be given the “lowest law enforcement, and prosecutorial priority” if authorities determine the marijuana for personal use.
Efforts to Legalize Medical Marijuana
With the legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalization of recreational marijuana by some municipalities, it’s obvious that the people favor recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
So, what efforts have groups made to legalize Arkansas recreational marijuana?
Presently, ballot initiatives offer the most likely path to legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
Arkansas Recreational Weed 2022: Responsible Growth Arkansas
Responsible Growth Arkansas is an industry-led coalition to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas. Today, supporters are campaigning to get enough signatures to qualify the ballot initiative for the November 2022 elections.
So far, they have raised $1.8million. The initiative needs 89,000 signatures by July 8 to make it to the ballot. The group says it’s “advocating for the passage of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution which will authorize the possession, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and over, as well as the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities.”
Chairman Eddie Armstrong has expressed optimism that they will garner the required signatures to make the ballot. He says, “We are very confident that we are going to bring in well over 100,000 signatures in the coming weeks leading up to election day. We’ve got northwest Arkansas, northeast Arkansas, especially central Arkansas, really covered up.”
Responsible Growth Arkansas has gathered over 50,000 signatures, and Armstrong believes it’s a sign that voters want AR recreational marijuana.
Under the terms proposed by Responsible Growth Arkansas, Arkansas marijuana laws will not allow home cultivation. Armstrong said this is “so our law enforcement officers aren’t worried about it getting in the hands of children or you growing it in your backyards and then we have to worry about that law enforcement issue.”
Their amendment will also abolish the tax on medical marijuana and place it on Arkansas recreational marijuana. Along with them, it aims to reform existing drug laws and use portions of the tax revenue to fund state court and law enforcement systems.
Armstrong says, “It’s an opportunity for people to have a pathway to work, reinvestments in communities that were most impacted by drug crimes of the past.”
Arkansas Recreational Weed 2022: Arkansas True Grass
Another ballot initiative gathering votes is Arkansas True Grass. They also aim to get their petition for the Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment on the ballot in November 2022. Their proposed amendment will “legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational purposes, and one that will set the captives free and clear all nonviolent marijuana offenses.”
Jesse Raphael, a volunteer with Arkansas True Grass, said: “I think it’s a safer drug than alcohol. I think there are a lot worse things that are being prescribed by doctors right now.” He said that even with the legalization of medical marijuana, some state residents are afraid to get an MMJ card because they don’t want to lose their gun rights or face stigmatization.”
Jesse believes that legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas will eliminate these fears.
He said: “They are afraid of being put on a registry. They are afraid of losing their gun rights. They are afraid of various things, so they still go to the black market for their medicine. By opening it up to recreational, you won’t have those issues anymore, and they’ll be able to go in and purchase without problems.”
Raphael also touched on the obvious tax incentives for Arkansas recreational marijuana. The man states, “It’s going bring in tax money; obviously that’s going to be the first thing that everyone sees from it. But, it’s going to release those poor people from prisons back into the economy,”
According to Briana Boling, a spokesperson for Arkansas True Grass, the group has collected about half of the 89,000 signatures it needs to make the ballot. They must collect the required number of signatures before July 8.
Arkansas True Grass Second Thoughts?
Boling said they may have to push back their proposed amendment to 2024, citing difficulties gathering votes with a process that relies on volunteers.
She said the group could stage a more organized effort in 2024, including maintaining a volunteer database, monthly meetings, and training sessions.
For now, the 2022 initiative is still on course; she says the group will make a statement by the end of the month.
Eyes on the Prize
Is medical marijuana legal in Arkansas? Many residents are hoping it will be. According to a poll by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College, most Arkansans support legalizing Arkansas recreational marijuana.
Editor-in-Chief of Talk Business & Politics, Roby Brock, said: “With the prospect that a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana could be on the ballot this fall, we wanted to test voter attitudes on the issue. We also are gauging opinions on the change that could dramatically alter the ballot and initiative process. On both measures, we get a clear read on where voters stand today.”
Will voters approve Arkansas legal cannabis in 2022? Only time will tell. For now, we’ve crossed our fingers.
Stay in the Loop With Elevate Holistics
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Note: As a first-time patient in AR, you must meet with an in-person doctor to get a written certification for your MMJ card. However, if you want to renew your MMJ card, Elevate Holistics is here for you.
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