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:
Issue 6 offers a more limited medical cannabis program, with fewer qualifying conditions and no grow-your-own provision for patients living far from a dispensary. However, the program offers seriously ill patients the only chance at relief if votes for Issue 7 do not count. Please locate your polling place here, and vote yes on both Issues 6 and 7. Before you head to the polls, be sure to check out MPP’s presidential voter guide as well.
MPP sends condolences to the many activists who spent long hours collecting signatures campaigning for Issue 7. We are disappointed with the court’s decision, and should the initiative seek further legal remedy, we wish the campaign the best. Right now it is critical that everyone urge their friends and family in Arkansas to vote yes on both medical marijuana initiatives.
On July 7, the Arkansas Secretary of State announced that Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s (ACC’s) medical marijuana initiative qualified for this November’s ballot. The measure, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, would allow seriously ill patients who have a certification from their doctor to obtain medical cannabis from nonprofit compassion centers. In addition, patients – or their licensed caregivers – could cultivate up to 10 cannabis plants at home provided they take steps to ensure it is secure. For a complete summary, please click here.
However, the measure is facing competition from a second initiative, and polling suggests that if both initiatives make the ballot, it’s almost certain that both will fail. Therefore, ACC is urging the competing campaign to end their signature drive and unite behind the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act.
If you wish to volunteer to help work towards reform, you can visit ACC’s webpage to sign up and get involved in this important effort. With your support, 2016 may be the year that voters approve medical marijuana in the Natural State.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently announced he intends to pardon a young man convicted of a marijuana-related felony. The governor emphasized the importance of having a chance to get one’s life back on track following such a conviction, especially for young people. Local press covering the pardon emphasized another aspect to this story: The young man is the governor’s son, Kyle Beebe. Kyle was convicted of “possession with intent to deliver marijuana” in 2003.
In 2012, over 5,700 people were either arrested or cited for marijuana possession. Another 555 people just like Kyle were charged with felonies related to marijuana. Only a fraction will have an opportunity like the one Kyle has. Instead, most will face a lifetime of discrimination: A criminal record that can hurt job prospects, housing, and educational opportunities – long after the court sentence is over.
Arkansas needs a better approach. Like 19 other states, it can remove possible jail time for simple possession, bringing relief to thousands. If you are an Arkansas resident, click here to ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine — not a criminal conviction — for simple possession.
Even better, Arkansas should implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol — just like Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Why continue the reefer madness when there is now a better way?