“What on earth is Arkansas doing to its medical marijuana programme and amendment?” That’s the question on everybody’s lips at the moment. Though several other states were looking to legalize marijuana recreationally in November 2016, Arkansas was looking to catch up with half of the rest of the U.S. and legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Arkansas’ penalties for marijuana use are possibly some of the strongest in the country, and many of the lawmakers don’t seem too cannabis-friendly!
On November 9, 2016, Arkansas’ medical marijuana bill took effect. The emergency legislation House Bill 1026 was enacted by lawmakers, giving regulators until July 1, 2017 to begin accepting applications for those looking to get a state license for growing or dispensing. As such, this means there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in operation as of yet. Only 65 people had applied for a Arkansan MMJ card in the first week of medical marijuana applications being open, with no one applying for a license to grow or sell marijuana. The licenses closes on September 18, 2017, and there has been interest from several local entrepreneurs.
What Are the Marijuana Laws Like in Arkansas at the Moment?
As it stands, those without a valid MMJ card in Arkansas still face a prison sentence and/or a fine. Possession of less than 4 ounces is considered a misdemeanour, with a first offence bringing 1 year or less in prison and a $2,500 fine. Subsequent offences can bring up to 6 years incarceration or less, with a $10,000 fine on amounts under 4 ounces, and is considered a felony.
Possessing any amount above 10 pounds of marijuana brings with it a minimum mandatory sentence of 3 years. The mandatory minimum sentences go up to 6 years for possession of amounts over 100 pounds, and could bring some unfortunate people life sentences. Delivery of anything over half an ounce (14 g) of cannabis is a felony, and can land a person in jail for up to 6 years and a $10,000 fine. Delivery of anything over 500 pounds of cannabis is considered trafficking, with a minimum of 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Penalties for hash and concentrates are the same as for leaf cannabis, and there are penalties for paraphernalia as well: a misdemeanour for possession or delivery for smoking paraphernalia, carrying up to 1 year in prison and a $2,500 fine; a felony carrying up to 6 years and a $10,000 fine for growing paraphernalia; and a mandatory minimum sentence 5 years and a $15,000 fine for delivery to a minor at least 3 years younger.
There are certain laws even those with a valid medical marijuana card have to observe. Now, this is the case for many people in even the most tolerant of states, but some of the rules are certainly a little bit arbitrary in Arkansas. Patients under 21 are not allowed to consume herbal cannabis, inhaling herbal cannabis is not permitted by adults in the presence of a pregnant woman or child under 14, and dispensaries (when they start running) will not be able to provide edible or drink products with more than 10 mg of THC in them.
As you can tell, the laws in Arkansas are rather strict with regards to cannabis, and to many it’s surprising that Arkansas even voted through a medical marijuana initiative in the first instance. In what is an affront to many United States citizens, those who wish to qualify for a medical marijuana card and do so may well lose their second amendment rights (that’s the right to bear arms), as marijuana is a federally illegal schedule 1 drug, according to the government. But vote through the ballot Arkansans did, and it was a tough battle to do so, as the Arkansans for Compassionate Care, aka Drug Policy Education Group (DPEG) can attest to.
Issue 6 – Medical Marijuana Amendment
We mentioned DPEG and the Arkansans for Compassionate Care just above, and we’ll mention more about what they fought for later. However, it’s Issue 6 that was passed, and we’re going to break it down into essentials …
- Qualifying patients will be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana
- Patients cannot grow their own marijuana
- There are reciprocity laws – out-of-state medical marijuana patients with a valid ID card may obtain cannabis from a state dispensary in Arkansas
- Medical cannabis will be taxed at the state and local rates, just as there is a sales tax for other goods. The tax will be distributed as thus: 5% for the department of health, 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division; 1% to the Medical Marijuana Commission; 10% to the skills development fund; 50% to the vocational and technical training special revenue fund; and 30% to the general revenue fund.
- Dispensaries are allowed to deliver
- There shall be at least 20 dispensaries but not more than 40
- Establishment of a marijuana commission of 5 members
- Qualifying patient registration information is to be treated as confidential
- Patients with a valid MMJ card and holding under 2.5 ounces on their person are not subject to arrest, and may have affirmative defense
- Licensed caregivers are to be given the same defenses qualifying medical marijuana patients have
- Employers and landlords cannot discriminate against those who use medical marijuana
- Minimum age for medical marijuana application is 18. Patients under the age of 18 will need the consent of their parent or guardian
- Dispensary owners would have to pay a $7,500 application fee, a one-time $15,000 licensing fee and an annual $22,500 renewal fee! Lottery plans were ditched.
As for the conditions that can qualify you for a medical marijuana card in Arkansas, they are:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Conditions that produce severe and persistent muscle spasms (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis (MS))
- Conditions that cause seizures (e.g. epilepsy)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Hepatitis C
- Intractable Pain
- Positive status for HIV/AIDS
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Severe Nausea
- Chronic or debilitating disease that cause Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
- Chronic or debilitating disease cause Peripheral Neuropathy
- Any other medical condition or treatment approved by the Arkansas Department of Health
It was Issue 6 that was ultimately passed, but DPEG actually fought for Issue 7 to be passed – the Medical Cannabis Act. Issue 7 was struck from the ballot by the Arkansas Supreme Court in the Benca v. Martin ruling, as the measure’s sponsors had failed to carry out criminal record checks, which meant some of the votes to get Issue 7 through were considered invalid.
There were two key differences between Issues 6 and 7. The first and perhaps most major one was the fact that Issue 7 allowed qualifying patients to grow their own. To many (and in particular Issue 6’s sponsor, David Crouch), this provision is the reason why Issue 7 was struck from the ballot, much in the same way Issue 5 was in 2012. The second big difference is that the number of conditions that would have qualified a patient for medical marijuana were a lot wider.
Had Issue 7 passed, patients with the following conditions would have qualified a person for medical marijuana, on top of the qualifying conditions that under Issue 6:
- Adiposis Dolorosa (Dercum’s Disease)
- Arnold-Chiari Malformation
- Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Chronic Insomnia
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – Types I & II
- Fibrous Dysplasia
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Nail-Patella Syndrome
- Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
- Posterior Lateral Sclerosis (PLS)
- Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Residual Limb and Phantom Pain
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA)
- Spinal Cord Injury and/or disease (including Arachnoiditis)
- Tarlov Cysts
So, as you can see, Issue 7 would have been far more specific and exhaustive with regards to what conditions medical marijuana can be recommended for. There’s fewer broad, generalized categories like “conditions that cause …”, as this is open for interpretation, and may not be accepted by the MMJ programme, even if there’s scientific evidence suggesting that cannabis may well work.
How Do I Get a Medical Marijuana Card for Arkansas?
Much in the same way you would for a MMJ card in any other state. You’ll need an Arkansas state-issued ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport, official government-produced ID card), proof of residence, an email address and a physician’s recommendation, with medical records proving that you have a qualifying condition. You can then fill out the application form online or in print with the attached documents, after which you’ll be given a card and a patient number if you qualify. The application process can be seen here.
As Arkansas recognizes valid MMJ cards from other states, should you be from Arkansas and can prove you live in another state, it is possible to get another state’s card. Or, if you’re from another state but living in Arkansas and in need of a medical marijuana card, it may well be worth getting one from your home state. After all, doing so will likely save you a lot of legal headaches, especially as Arkansas’ cannabis laws are so tough (and, might we say, somewhat authoritarian). Call or email Leafwell today and get your MMJ card as soon as possible – don’t give Arkansas law enforcement a reason to arrest you!