Arkansas Just Legalized Medical Marijuana. Here’s What Happens Next.

Published on November 8, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020
State Capital Building in Little Rock ,Arkansas.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, Issue 6, officially goes into effect today, Nov. 9, 2016. However, that doesn’t give anyone license to just go carrying around cannabis willy-nilly. What it means is that you can now consult your physician about whether or not you may qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.

If your physician agrees that your condition qualifies for the medical marijuana program, it will be at least 120 days before the Arkansas Department of Health established the rules for patient registry identification cards.

That means that the rules for patients should be drafted by mid-February 2017. Expect some delays – creating an entirely new state-run medical program is no small feat, and there are likely to be some bumps in the road along the way.

The Alcoholic Beverage Committee will be charged with overseeing the operation of dispensaries and cultivation facilities. A new Medical Marijuana Commission will be established, consisting of five members – two members appointed by the Pro Tempore President of the Senate, two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one member appointed by the Governor.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchison has been notoriously against all forms of cannabis legalization, as well as much of the Republican Congress in Arkansas. With their input, the Commission could easily become biased against medical cannabis, and create roadblocks for the implementation.

For example, if the Governor decided to appoint Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Arkansas Surgeon General and star of this anti-marijuana ad in which he mocks cannabis and its medicinal benefits, it could spell disaster for patients.

If all goes according to plan, the Department of Health will begin accepting applications for medical dispensaries by June 1, 2017. So theoretically, by late 2017 medical patients could gain legal access to medicinal cannabis in Arkansas for the first time ever.

According to the amendment, there must be at least 20 dispensaries, but no more than 40 statewide, and at least four cultivation facilities, but no more than eight total.

If your medical condition is not considered as qualifying for medical marijuana, six months after the effective date, in April of 2017, the Department of Health will be issuing the rules to petition to add more qualifying conditions, and you may be able to petition for your condition to be added.

Here are more details about the law established by Issue 6:

  • Patients may possess up to 2 ½ ounces of cannabis flower
  • Qualifying conditions include:
    •  Cancer
    • Glaucoma
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Hepatitis C
    • ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease
    • Tourette’s syndrome
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Ulcerative colitis
    • PTSD
    • Severe arthritis
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • A chronic or debilitating disease that produces:
      • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
      • Peripheral neuropathy
      • Intractable pain
      • Severe nausea
      • Seizures
      • Severe or persistent muscle spasms
  • No home cultivation is permitted.
  • Out-of-state medical cannabis patients may obtain medicine from a state dispensary with a valid registry identification card from their state or district.
  • Dispensaries are permitted to make deliveries to medical cannabis patients.
  • Medical cannabis sales shall be subject to the same state and local sales tax as other goods.


  • Nov. 9, 2016: Issue 6 takes effect.
  • Feb. 9, 2017: Deadline for the Arkansas Department of Health to adopt rules for registry identification cards, labeling and testing standards, and other regulations.
  • April 9, 2017: Deadline for the Health Department to adopt rules for the consideration of petitions from the public to add more qualifying conditions.
  • June 1, 2017: Deadline that the Commission shall begin accepting licenses to operate a dispensary and cultivation facility.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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