Medical marijuana businesses adapt to conditions under COVID-19 while activists limit signature gathering effort for adult-use legalization initiative
Last update: April 23, 2020
Medical marijuana regulators and businesses are taking steps to keep patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regulators are permitting telehealth visits between doctors and patients, and expiration dates for patient registry cards have been suspended indefinitely. The outbreak has also spurred medical marijuana businesses in Arkansas to initiate delivery services. With the number of registered patients reaching nearly 50,000 as of April, the medical marijuana program has seen growth in the past year, with over $63 million in sales nearly a year after dispensaries opened.
On the adult-use legalization front, Arkansans for Cannabis Reform is spearheading two ballot initiatives. The first would establish a system to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older. The second would create a pathway for individuals to remove previous marijuana offenses from their criminal records, making it easier for them to get jobs and access social benefits.
Each petition requires just over 89,000 voter signatures, and the campaign has established signing locations all over the state, but the COVID-19 has significantly hampered the campaign’s efforts. Arkansans for Cannabis Reform announced, “Due to COVID-19, we are not actively out in the streets collecting signatures until further notice. You can still contact the volunteers listed or go into one of the businesses to sign.”
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 policies. 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.