Next year, Arkansas could make history and become the first southern state to end marijuana prohibition and wipe the slate clean for people with criminal records for marijuana convictions.
The Marijuana Policy Project has endorsed two constitutional ballot initiatives being spearheaded by Arkansans for Cannabis Reform. The first would establish a system to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older. The second would create a pathway for individuals to remove previous marijuana offenses from their criminal records, making it easier for them to get jobs and access social benefits.
Each petition requires just over 89,000 voter signatures, and the campaign has established signing locations all over the state. Now is a critical time, and they are looking for supporters to get involved and expand their effort.
A victory in Arkansas would send a shockwave through the country. A clear majority of voters stand with us in our mission to end marijuana prohibition. But it takes hard-working teams like Arkansans for Cannabis Reform to give voters an opportunity to enact the change they want.
Little Rock City Board Member Ken Richardson is proposing to make marijuana arrests the lowest possible police priority. This measure — which would effectively reduce marijuana possession to a citation — will save court and law enforcement resources while not needlessly punishing adults with jail time.
While attitudes on marijuana policy are changing all over the country, we can't rest now. In fact, Little Rock voted down a similar ordinance last year!
To find your Ward Director, please click here. Be sure to reach out to them before the meeting and let them know you support this proposed ordinance. (If Richardson is your board member, you can thank him for his leadership.)
Here are a couple of points you can make in support:
* Please support Board Member Richardson's proposal to cite, not jail, people for marijuana possession. Incarceration is a traumatic, disproportionate penalty for possessing marijuana.
* This measure would allow law enforcement to spend more time on crimes with victims, instead of wasting their time booking individuals for using a substance most Americans think should be legal.
You can also show up in person to demonstrate your support for this important measure:
What: Little Rock Board of Directors meeting
When: Tuesday, August 20 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Little Rock City Hall, 500 West Markham Street, Board of Directors' Chambers, 2nd floor
The city will vote on this next week and needs to hear from constituents beforehand. Reach out to your city board member today. If you or anyone you know is a resident of Little Rock, please let them know about the meeting and forward this email to them.
Although medical marijuana is not yet available for Arkansas patients, patient ID cards went into effect on February 15, 2019. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission began mailing out ID cards to qualifying patients, and over 7,000 patient ID cards have been approved.
Patients who have a qualifying medical condition and a physician's written certification can apply online.
Recently, the Medical Marijuana Commission awarded licenses to 32 retail medical marijuana dispensaries and five medical marijuana cultivators. Cultivators are expected to have product available for dispensaries by April. Hopefully, Arkansas patients will not have to wait much longer for relief approved by voters over two years ago.
Despite the progress achieved so far for patients, Arkansas still has some of harshest marijuana laws in the country. Possessing marijuana should not be punishable by jail time, and other states – including Mississippi, North Carolina, and Missouri – have decriminalized marijuana. Ask your legislators to impose a civil fine on marijuana possession. Together, we can bring marijuana policy reform to Arkansas.
In March, an unsuccessful applicant sued the state, claiming that the Medical Marijuana Commission’s scoring process was flawed and that two of the commission’s members had conflicts of interest. The judge sided with the unsuccessful applicant, and the state’s rollout of the medical marijuana program was put on pause.
Yesterday, the Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a dispute over Arkansas’ medical marijuana program. The program has been stalled since lawsuits were filed over how licenses were awarded. We learned that one commissioner was even offered a bribe from a company seeking a cultivation license.
No matter who wins this case, it’s Arkansas patients who are losing out. We hope that these legal matters will be concluded in a timely matter so that patients may have access to the medicine they need.
In other disappointing news, the Little Rock Board of Directors voted down a proposal last Tuesday to make marijuana possession the lowest enforcement priority for law enforcement.
A Little Rock city director has proposed formally making misdemeanor marijuana offenses a “low priority” for city law enforcement officials. As Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson highlighted, simple misdemeanor marijuana offenses can haunt an individual for life, making it harder to secure employment and higher education.
If you live in Little Rock, please contact your directors and ask that they support this commonsense reform. If you are unsure of your ward’s city director, please go here to find out which ward you live in. In addition to your ward director, be sure to also email the three at-large directors that represent the entire city. This proposal is a great step in the right direction and will help shape policies at the state level in Arkansas.
Unfortunately, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner had issues with the wording of the proposal and claimed the police department already views misdemeanor marijuana offenses as a low priority. If this is true, City Director Richardson explains there is no harm in simply putting this policy in writing.
If you're a Little Rock resident, please take a few minutes to make sure the city directors know their constituents want Little Rock to make marijuana offenses a low enforcement priority. Then, please spread the word to others in Little Rock!
Patients and caregivers can begin enrolling in Arkansas’ medical marijuana program now, although cards will not be available for some time.
If you are a qualifying patient, you can go to the Arkansas Department of Health website and enroll online, or you can mail in your application. Patients must submit a written certification form filled out by a physician, a photocopy of their Arkansas state-issued ID, and a nonrefundable $50 application fee. Caregivers must also undergo a $34 criminal history check. Note that due to an amendment to the program by the Legislature, members of the Arkansas National Guard and the U.S. military are not permitted to enroll in the program as either patients or caregivers.
While patients can apply for program enrollment now, their ID cards will not be issued until 30 days before medical cannabis actually becomes available from dispensaries for purchase. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission estimates that dispensaries should be open by the end of the year or early 2018. You can learn more about the dispensary application process here.
Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!
Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.
While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.
This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.
MPP released the following in a press release:
“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”
Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.
“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”
All four of the medical marijuana initiatives being considered by states on Election Night were approved by voters, adding to the considerable momentum of marijuana policy reform sweeping the country. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved initiatives for new medical marijuana programs, and Montana voted to significantly expand access and improve its existing program.
As of now, there are effective medical marijuana laws on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia, covering 198 million Americans (or roughly 62% of the population). Patients in states without legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana should continue to put pressure on their elected representatives to pass sensible reforms at the state and federal level. Together, we can make sure the seriously ill aren't treated like criminals for much longer.
Today is the day! This is the biggest election in marijuana policy reform history, but even if you can't vote on a legalization or medical marijuana ballot initiative today, you could play an important part to make future progress possible in your state.
Before you vote, please check out MPP's voter guides if you live in the following places: