Is marijuana legal in Arkansas?
Current legality status
Cannabis is legal for qualified patients with a licensed card.
Medical cannabis is legal in Arkansas. Recreational cannabis, however, is illegal. The state has not decriminalized cannabis, although Fayetteville and Eureka Springs have deprioritized cannabis law enforcement.
First-time offenders in possession of fewer than four ounces may be charged with a misdemeanor, landing them in prison for up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent offenders may be charged with a felony for possession of the same amount, resulting in up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The possession of larger quantities may be charged as a felony and is punishable by longer prison sentences and larger fines.
The intent to deliver cannabis is subject to a sliding scale of penalties, depending on the amount being distributed. Individuals found with 14 grams or less may be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Possession with the intent to deliver between 14 grams and four ounces is viewed as a felony, resulting in a punishment of up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The trafficking of larger quantities results in longer sentences and more substantial fines.
Like many states, the question of recreational legalization is on the table in Arkansas. Two 2020 ballot initiatives seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational use were filed with the Arkansas secretary of state in 2019. Neither managed to gain enough signatures by the July 2020 deadline, with the COVID-19 pandemic identified as a causal factor.
Arkansas medical marijuana laws
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, or Issue 6, was passed in 2016 by ballot and integrated into Arkansas’ constitution in 2017. The amendment created a comprehensive system for medical marijuana in the state and extended considerable legal protection to patients, physicians, and caregivers.
Patients are able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 14 days from state-approved dispensaries, but cannot cultivate marijuana themselves. Patients are also protected from prejudice in employment or tenancy situations.
After voters approved Issue 6, a number of acts were passed in rapid succession to clarify aspects of the amendment. Some of the most influential legislation includes the following acts:
- Act 545: Enforces criminal background checks for caregivers and applicants for dispensary and cultivation licenses.
- Act 593: Protects employees and prevents employers from taking adverse action against a patient or a caregiver due to their status relating to medical cannabis. This bill still enables employers to create their own workplace drug policies.
- Act 640: Requires regulatory oversight of dispensaries and creates restrictions on advertising cannabis.
- Act 642: Created licensing procedures for individuals who transport, distribute, or process cannabis.
- Act 1024: Requires dispensaries to make vaporizers available for patients.
- Act 1100: Establishes security requirements for cultivation facilities.
The amendment also created a Medical Marijuana Commission to oversee cannabis cultivation and distribution. The Medical Marijuana Commission began accepting applications for the commercial cultivation and supply of cannabis in 2017. The first dispensaries opened to serve patients in May 2019.
Arkansas qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
A qualifying condition is an illness that may benefit from medical cannabis treatment. Patients in Arkansas with written certification from their physician may be eligible for medical cannabis.
The list of qualifying conditions in Arkansas include:
- Positive status for HIV/AIDS
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Severe arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Intractable pain which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months
- Severe nausea
- Seizures including (without limitation) those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms including (without limitation) those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
- Other medical conditions approved by the Department of Health
How to get a medical marijuana card in Arkansas
Patients and caregivers are both required to apply for medical marijuana ID cards in Arkansas. The application costs $50. Applications can be completed online, and are reviewed by the Arkansas Department of Health.
The steps for acquiring a patient medical marijuana card are as follows:
- Gather the required documents. Several documents are needed to complete an application. These include a photocopy of your Arkansas state ID (such as a driver’s license or state ID issued by the DMV), and written certification from your physician.
- Create an online account. Once you have registered as a new user, confirm your account by verifying your email address.
- Complete the online application form. Fill out all the boxes, being sure to upload a photo, and answer questions about military status (members of the military or National Guard may not apply for the program). Incomplete applications will be returned.
- Check the status of your application. Applications take from 10-14 days to process. If your application is approved, you can either print your registry ID card or have it mailed to you.
Does Arkansas accept out-of-state medical cards?
Arkansas accepts out-of-state medical cards. Out-of-state visitors must complete the out-of-state registration and pay a $50 visiting patient application fee. Those approved may purchase medical marijuana for 30 days.
When does my Arkansas medical marijuana card expire?
Arkansas registry ID cards are valid for one year from the date of issue, or for the amount of time specified by your physician. Card renewal costs $50, and patients must complete the same form as first-time applicants.
Got your medical card?
Arkansas marijuana growing laws
Home cannabis cultivation is not permitted in Arkansas. Qualifying patients and their caregivers must source medical marijuana from state-approved dispensaries.
Arkansas public consumption laws
Arkansas has clear guidelines regarding the consumption of medical cannabis in public. As outlined in Act 740, qualifying patients are not permitted to possess, smoke, or engage in the use of cannabis in the following places:
- Any form of public transport
- College or university
- Daycare center, preschool, primary or secondary school
- Drug or alcohol treatment facility
- Community or recreation center
- Correctional facility
- In any public place
- In any place where smoking is prohibited
- In close physical proximity to anyone under the age of 14.
The act does not, however, outline penalties for the offense of public cannabis consumption.
Arkansas cannabis DUI laws
Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal, even in medical marijuana states.
According to Act 740, medical marijuana patients are not allowed to undertake any task under the influence of marijuana when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice. It’s illegal to operate, navigate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle, aircraft, motorized watercraft, or any other vehicle drawn by power other than muscle power while under the influence of marijuana.
When driving in Arkansas, there is implied consent that an individual will submit to one or more chemical tests of their breath or blood if required. Those who refuse to submit to a chemical test will have their license suspended for 180 days. The refusal to submit to a test may be used as admissible evidence of intoxication and the defendant’s awareness of guilt.
The penalties for DUI in Arkansas vary. First-time offenders may receive 24 hours’ jail time to a maximum of one year (or potential public service in lieu of jail time); a $150–$1,000 fine, and a six-month license suspension.
A second offense is punishable by a minimum of seven days to a maximum of one year in prison (or a potential 30 days community service in lieu of jail time); a $400 to $3,000 fine, and license suspension for 24 months.
Subsequent offenses receive longer prison sentences and higher fines.
Arkansas cannabis testing regulations
The Arkansas Department of Health adheres to stringent testing regulations. Arkansas adopted cannabis testing standards in May 2017, a year after lawmakers legalized the sale and possession of medical marijuana. But it was only in March 2019 that the first testing lab, operated by Steep Hill, opened for business. It wasn’t until May 2019 that medical marijuana was actually cleared for sale.
By state law, labs must follow established ISO standards for testing, including testing for potency, pesticides, solvents, moisture content, microbial contaminants, and heavy metals. Any medical cannabis product that doesn’t pass testing or meet state standards must be sterilized or destroyed.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Arkansas
Can medical patients grow in Arkansas?
No, home cultivation is not permitted.
Is Arkansas a medical state?
Yes, medical marijuana is legal in Arkansas.
Can you get a medical card with a felony in Arkansas?
According to the amendment, felons are not precluded from the medical marijuana program. A person convicted of a felony involving violence or the violation of controlled-substance laws within the past ten years can not serve as a caregiver, however.
Can you get a medical card for anxiety in Arkansas?
How long does it take to process a registry ID card application?
The processing time is 10 to 14 days.
Are registry identification cards from other state medical marijuana programs valid in Arkansas?
A visiting qualifying patient may obtain marijuana from a dispensary with approval as a visiting patient. The application costs $50.
How long is a registry ID card valid?
A registry identification card from the Arkansas Department of Health is valid for one year from the date it is issued or for the amount of time designated by the physician.
Do I need a caregiver card to purchase medical marijuana for my child?
Yes. Qualified patients under 18 years of age cannot purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary. The legal guardian or parent is required to register as a caregiver to buy medical marijuana for a minor.
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Post last updated Sept. 7, 2020