Arkansans vote yes on medical marijuana
Last update: November 9, 2016
The votes are in, and after a confusing election season with two competing initiatives, multiple lawsuits, and an election period unlike any in recent memory, Arkansas has become the first state in the Deep South to allow medical marijuana!
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment will allow patients with qualifying conditions to obtain medical cannabis with their doctor’s permission. In a vote of 53% to 46%, Arkansans did not repeat the mistake of 2012, embracing compassion over incarceration for the seriously ill and establishing patient access to this critical treatment option.
While many advocates pushed for the more comprehensive program offered by Issue 7 — a measure disqualified from the ballot by the state Supreme Court after early voting had begun — they should take heart that Arkansas will have a workable program that many in the state will benefit from. Many thanks to everyone who worked to bring a compassionate medical marijuana program to Arkansas!
Current law is one of the harshest nationwide
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 less than 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. Twenty-five 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.
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