Arkansas Advocates Resubmit Ballot Initiative to Expand Medical Cannabis Access

Advocates in Arkansas have regrouped and resubmitted a ballot initiative to expand medical cannabis access in the state after Attorney General Tim Griffin last month rejected the proposal’s original language.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024, sponsored by Arkansans for Patient Access, is a constitutional amendment that not only would expand access for patients, but would also automatically legalize adult-use cannabis in Arkansas should it be legalized at the federal level.

Griffin decided Jan. 29 that the ballot title for the measure was insufficient due to improper formatting, as well as ambiguities about how the proposed amendment would impact the state’s existing laws and regulations surrounding cannabis.

Arkansans for Patient Access submitted new versions of the proposed constitutional amendment, ballot title and popular name Feb. 5, according to the Arkansas Advocate. The proposal’s authors made mostly technical changes, the news outlet reported, but the new language would also prevent lawmakers from changing constitutional amendments.

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

Paschall said the latest version of the ballot initiative expands on a court ruling that the Arkansas General Assembly’s changes to Amendment 98, which voters approved in the 2016 election to legalize medical cannabis, were unlawful.

The revised language would amend Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution to block the General Assembly from changing constitutional amendments without a public vote, the Arkansas Advocate reported.

“The language in this proposed amendment broadens that to future initiated amendments whether those are specific to medical marijuana or not,” Paschall told the news outlet. “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.”

As Cannabis Business Times previously reported, the proposed constitutional amendment would make several changes to Amendment 98, including:

  • Allowing patients and caregivers 21 and older to grow up to seven mature plants and seven immature plants at home for personal use;
  • Allowing physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to certify patients for medical cannabis;
  • Allowing health care providers to certify patients for medical cannabis based on medical need rather than for only the state’s current list of 18 qualifying conditions;
  • Allowing health care providers to use telemedicine to conduct patient assessments;
  • Recognizing medical cannabis ID cards from other states and allowing nonresidents to participate in Arkansas’ medical cannabis program;
  • Eliminating medical cannabis ID card application fees for patients; and
  • Extending the expiration date from one year to three years for new patient ID cards.

The proposal would also establish a trigger law that would allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis if the federal government deschedules cannabis or legalizes cannabis possession in the future.

Groups seeking to place initiatives on Arkansas’ 2024 ballot have a July 5 deadline to gather 90,704 signatures, and signature gathering cannot begin until the attorney general approves the ballot title and popular name.

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