If you were worried about going to prison for getting caught with marijuana in Arkansas, you can breathe a little easier today.
Back in March, the Arkansas Legislature, backed by Gov. Mike Beebe, passed a law to reduce the penalties for possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. Starting today, a judge may place a person under probation for a year without formal charge, instead of the regular sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. This option is at the discretion of the judge, so be nice in court, and don’t count on this offer if you have prior convictions.
Still, it represents a huge leap forward. Until now, possession of anything over an ounce got you four to 10 in jail and a $25,000 fine. I’ll take a year of probation and no criminal record over that any day!
And while not being decriminalization, the probation option is pretty close, and the possession limit of four ounces is one of the highest of any decriminalized state in the country.
The law also makes intent to deliver small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor instead of a felony and lessens the penalties and status of subsequent possession violations.
The fact that this is happening in Arkansas of all places is clear evidence that this country as a whole is moving in the right direction. Marijuana reformers in every state should take note and keep working hard with their local and state lawmakers to maintain this momentum. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.