Two medical marijuana initiatives will appear on November ballot; lawsuits fly
Last update: September 12, 2016
The Arkansas Secretary of State has certified two different medical marijuana measures to appear on the November 8 ballot. In early July, it certified Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s (ACC’s) medical marijuana initiative — the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act — which would allow seriously ill patients who have a certification from their doctor to obtain medical cannabis from nonprofit compassion centers. In addition, patients, or their licensed caregivers, could cultivate up to 10 cannabis plants at home provided they take steps to ensure it is secure. For a complete summary, please click here.
Proponents of the second measure, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, continued gathering signatures after the Act qualified, despite warnings that two measures qualifying would likely split the vote and cause both to fail. On August 31, the secretary of state certified the constitutional amendment for the ballot. It offers more limited protections than the Act, but is better than the status quo. You can check out a comparison of the two initiatives here.
Now both campaigns are having to focus on defending against lawsuits seeking to kick them off the ballot. Thus far, three suits have been filed in total, and to date none have been ruled upon. Make sure to sign up for MPP’s Arkansas alerts so you can stay on top of events as they develop. We will be watching Arkansas very closely this fall, and we hope you are too.
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 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.
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.