Arkansas Activists Resubmit Ballot Initiative To Expand Medical Marijuana And Trigger Recreational Legalization After Federal Reform

“The resubmission is focused on responses to issues raised in the Attorney General’s rejection opinion.”

By Hunter Field, Arkansas Advocate

A marijuana industry and patient group has resubmitted language to the attorney general for a ballot measure to expand access to medical cannabis in Arkansas.

Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) rejected the first version of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 due to improper formatting and ambiguities about how the measure would affect existing state laws and rules.

Arkansans for Patient Access on Monday submitted new versions of the proposed constitutional amendment, ballot title and popular name with mostly technical changes, but the new version would also preclude the state Legislature from making changes to constitutional amendments.

“The resubmission is focused on responses to issues raised in the Attorney General’s rejection opinion,” said Bill Paschall, executive director of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association. “Legal counsel believes Arkansans for Patient Access’ latest submission should satisfy those issues.

“Additionally, the latest submission builds off Judge Chip Welch’s ruling that the General Assembly’s revisions to Amendment 98 were unlawful. The language in this proposed amendment broadens that to future initiated amendments whether those are specific to medical marijuana or not. The added language protects the will of the people and maintains the integrity and intent of the proposed amendment. It also reinforces current law, which has been in place since Arkansas adopted the initiative process over a century ago.

“Arkansans for Patient Access takes our state motto to heart… Regnat Populus.”

Regnat populus is Latin for: “The people rule.”

The medical marijuana industry-backed initiative would make it legal for patients to grow their own cannabis at home and make a series of changes to Amendment 98, which Arkansans ratified in 2016 to legalize marijuana for medical use.

The major changes being proposed are:

  • Allowing patients and designated caregivers over age 21 to grow up to seven mature plants and seven younger marijuana plants.
  • Expanding who can certify patients for medical marijuana cards from only doctors to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
  • Permitting providers to qualify patients based on any medical need rather than the state’s current 18 qualifying conditions.
  • Allowing health care providers to conduct patient assessments via telemedicine.
  • Expanding access to out-of-state residents by recognizing patient cards from other states or allowing nonresidents to obtain Arkansas patient cards.
  • Abolishing application fees for patients seeking registry ID cards.
  • Increasing the expiration date for new patient cards from one year to three years.

The proposal would also create a recreational cannabis trigger law, permitting adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis if the federal government removes marijuana from the Schedule of Controlled Substances or if marijuana possession is no longer a federal crime.

It would also amend Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution to prohibit the General Assembly from making changes to constitutional amendments without a vote of the people. The provision would have a similar effect to parts of a ballot initiative proposed on Monday.

Ballot groups have until July 5 to gather 90,704 signatures from registered voters to qualify for ballot access, but canvassing can’t begin until the ballot title and popular name are approved by Griffin.

This story was first published by Arkansas Advocate.

As Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program Hits Record Sales, Litigation And Ballot Measure Could Expand Access Even More

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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