Last Update: September 23, 2014
Arkansans still considered criminals for choosing the safer choice
Arkansas has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the nation, but despite increasing interest around the country for improvements to marijuana laws, the Arkansas Legislature has shown little interest in changing its cannabis laws. Possessing under four ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor carrying up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Possessing an ounce of marijuana or more by those who have twice been convicted of possession is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.
Let your lawmakers know it’s long past time for a more proportionate and fiscally sound approach to marijuana. Nineteen states — including Mississippi, North Carolina, and Missouri — have decriminalized or legalized marijuana. Ask your legislators to impose a civil fine on marijuana possession or to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
In 2012, there were at least 5,718 marijuana arrests in Arkansas. Of those arrests, over 90% were for marijuana possession. During the same year, 91% of all reported burglaries, including home invasions, and over 90% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. Law enforcement should stop wasting time on marijuana-related offenses and use its resources to stop real crime.
In addition to wasting law enforcement time on victimless marijuana offenses, marijuana enforcement has been extremely unequal in Arkansas. African Americans in Arkansas are over three times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana compared with whites, although both black and white populations consume marijuana at similar rates. To learn more about how the war on marijuana can be used to discriminate against African Americans in the U.S. and in Arkansas, check out the ACLU’s recent report.
In November 2012, 48.56% of Arkansas voters voted for a medical marijuana measure. While this fell just shy of the votes needed to finally protect seriously ill patients from arrest, it did show substantial support for protecting patients. In all likelihood, support has grown as awareness has risen about marijuana’s medical benefits, including after Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN became supportive and profiled several patients. One patient was a young girl whose catastrophic seizures were effectively treated by a strain of marijuana that she did not smoke and that had very low THC.
Please write to your legislators and voice your support for a compassionate law that will help seriously ill patients in the state. People should not have to make the terrible choice between being considered a criminal and being denied a medicine that is safer than many pharmaceutical medications.
To receive news about Arkansas marijuana policy reform as it happens, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service, if you haven't done so already.