Medical marijuana sales start
Last update: July 22, 2019
Arkansas medical marijuana sales started in May 2019 and have been strong despite only a few dispensaries being open. Two dispensaries are located in Hot Springs while one more recently opened in Clinton. The state has authorized a total of 32 retail dispensaries and five medical marijuana cultivators.
As of July 2019, there are over 15,000 registered medical marijuana patients in the state. Officials predict that number may increase to over 20,000 in the near future. You can learn more about Arkansas’ medical marijuana program — which voters approved in November 2016 — here.
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.
A decriminalization bill was introduced in 2019 but did not advance before the legislature adjourned. Contact your lawmakers and ask them to make marijuana decriminalization a priority in 2020.
Let your lawmakers know it’s long past time for a more proportionate and fiscally sound approach to marijuana. Twenty-six 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.
Voters in Eureka Springs and Fayetteville made marijuana enforcement a low enforcement priority in 2006 and 2008. However, a 2019 report by the Arkansas Justice Collective found that marijuana arrests actually increased by 44% in Fayetteville since the measure passed. Pressure is building to make voters’ will a reality.
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.