While Arkansas approved its medical cannabis initiative back in 2016, there are still a number of limitations when compared to other states that have made similar moves.
For example, patients can only purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis in a 14-day period, patients under 21 cannot consume herbal forms of cannabis, dispensaries cannot provide cannabis-infused foods or drinks with more than 10mg of THC and home cultivation is not allowed, among other limitations.
With a newly proposed constitutional amendment, a cannabis industry group is looking to loosen some of the state’s current limitations. On Friday, Arkansans for Patient Access said it was submitting the ballot language for the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 to Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, as reported by the Arkansas Advocate.
Potential Changes to the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Program
“The goal of this ballot proposal is to reaffirm and build upon Amendment 98 to better serve patients,” said Amy Martin, owner of The Greenery dispensary in Fort Smith. “This amendment reflects a commitment to the principles established by the state’s voters. It reduces barriers and streamlines processes so qualifying patients can access the medicines and treatment options that best serve them.”
The ballot initiative introduces a number of changes to the current medical cannabis program.
If passed, it would allow patients and designated caregivers over the age of 21 to grow up to seven mature plants and seven younger plants. Currently, only doctors can grant patients medical cannabis cards, though the amendment would also allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to do so.
It would also allow providers to grant medical cannabis cards based on any medical need, instead of being limited to the state’s current 18 qualifying conditions. Healthcare providers would also be allowed to conduct patient assessments via telemedicine.
Additionally, the amendment would expand access to out-of-state residents and recognize patient cards from other states, along with allowing non-residents to obtain Arkansas medical cannabis cards. The initiative would also remove application fees for prospective patients seeking medical cannabis cards and increase the expiration dates for new patient cards from one to three years.
Creating an Adult-Use Cannabis Trigger Law
Along with the proposed changes to the state’s current medical cannabis program, the proposal would also create a recreational cannabis trigger law. This comes in the midst of the Biden Administration’s ongoing consideration to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The trigger law would permit Arkansas adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis should the federal government remove cannabis from the CSA or if cannabis possession is no longer considered a federal crime. The trigger provision would limit commercial growth and distribution to cultivation facilities and dispensaries currently licensed under the state’s medical cannabis law.
Arkansas previously attempted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2022 through Issue 4, which still came with a number of strict limitations, though it was ultimately rejected by voters.
Attorney David Couch drafted the state’s original Amendment 98 to legalize medical cannabis, and while he opposed the 2022 effort, he’s shown public support for this new initiative. Similarly, patient advocate Melissa Fults was against the 2022 measure but stands behind the new effort on behalf of Arkansans for Patient Access.
The attorney general will have 10 business days to review the measure and ballot language before indicating whether or not it is fit to appear on the upcoming Arkansas ballot for voters this November. Should it be approved, canvassers have until July 5 to gather 90,704 signatures from registered voters, which would effectively qualify the initiative for the ballot.