Legislators consider restrictive changes to the medical marijuana program
Last update: March 8, 2021
Arkansas voters approved a medical cannabis law in 2016, though patients were not able to purchase products from dispensaries until 2019. There are currently over 68,000 medical cannabis patients registered with the state’s Department of Health.
In the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers are considering several proposals to make changes to the medical cannabis program, including restricting certain kinds of advertisements and establishing a Medical Marijuana Advisory Subcommittee. Patient advocates are also working to stop another bill that would prohibit patients from being “intoxicated or under the influence of medical marijuana in a public place.”
Last year, efforts to legalize marijuana for adults through a 2020 ballot initiative were curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical marijuana businesses adapt to conditions under COVID-19
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 were suspended until September 30, 2020. The outbreak also spurred medical marijuana businesses in Arkansas to initiate delivery services. With the number of registered patients reaching over 85,000 as of October, the medical marijuana program has seen growth in the past year, with over $63 million in sales nearly a year after dispensaries opened.
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 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.