State Attorney General rejects ballot initiative language to expand medical cannabis program
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 language, submitted by Arkansans for Medical Access, was rejected by Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) on January 29. The campaign will be able to resubmit the amendment with changes to satisfy the Attorney General. If approved at that point, the campaign could then begin to gather the 90,709 valid voter signatures by July 5 to be placed on the November ballot. A simple majority would be needed for passage of the state constitutional amendment.
If the amendment passed, it would:
Allow patients/caregivers over 21 to grow seven mature cannabis plants (14” or greater)
Allow patients/caregivers over 21 to grow seven immature plants (14” or smaller)
Expand practitioners who can recommend medical cannabis to include pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants
Allow medical cannabis for any medical need
Allow telemedicine for healthcare providers recommending cannabis
Expand reciprocity for out-of-state patients, including issuing cards for non-residents
Make recommendations valid for three years moving forward
The amendment also has language that contains a trigger law. When the federal government ends federal prohibition, adults 21+ could legally possess and use cannabis, and medical dispensaries would be able to immediately begin adult-use sales. The entire amendment can be found here.
Lawmakers, court protect medical cannabis patients’ rights
Both the legislature and a court delivered modest victories for patients in recent years.
In 2023, the state legislature approved and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill protecting Arkansas medical cannabis patients’ right to concealed carry of a firearm. The issue of cannabis consumers’ firearm rights remains a contentious issue among federal courts and agencies.
Also in 2023, an Arkansas judge struck down several amendments to the state’s medical cannabis law previously approved by the state legislature. The judge found lawmakers overstepped their authority by imposing limits on the constitutional medical cannabis program approved by voters in 2016.
Ballot measure to legalize cannabis for adults falls short
In November 2022, for the first time ever, an initiated constitutional measure to legalize cannabis for adults appeared on the Arkansas ballot. With just over half of eligible voters participating in the election, Issue 4 was defeated by a 56.3% - 43.7% margin.
Opponents relied on a standard playbook of fear tactics to fight against the proposal, and although the measure would have directed cannabis tax revenue to Arkansas police departments, many local law enforcement groups urged voters to reject Issue 4. Several prominent politicians also campaigned against the ballot measure. Existing medical cannabis businesses in Arkansas were major backers of the effort.
Despite the loss, there is good reason to believe Arkansas voters are supportive of cannabis legalization in principle. Recent polls show that a majority of residents favor the idea, which suggests there is hope for future attempts to legalize cannabis. Fortunately, voters also soundly defeated Issue 2, which would have made future ballot initiatives more difficult to pass by raising the threshold for approval for constitutional amendments from a 50% simple majority to a 60% supermajority.
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