Is Weed Legal in Arkansas? | Cannabis Legalization

Is recreational cannabis legal in Arkansas? Is medicinal marijuana legal in Arkansas? What about Arkansas' CBD laws? Find out about the weed laws in Arkansas in this article.

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

Landlocked and bordered by the Mississippi River, Arkansas is a state with forests, mountains and thriving cities. Arkansas is the birthplace of a number of notable Americans including Bill Clinton, Billy Bob Thorton, Johnny Cash and Walmart founder Sam Walton. 

Arkansas is located in what is colloquially known as the Bible Belt, with a high percentage of the population being very religious. This is tied to the state's past in the Civil War, where the state seceded from the United States of America to join the Confederate States in 1861. With much of the economy of the time linked to cotton farming and plantations, Arkansas supported the use of slaves for their labour.

There are a number of towns in Arkansas which have been restored as historic state parks with houses and churches dating back to the mid 19th century including the Powhatan Historic State Park and Davidsonville Historic State Park in the north of the state, and Historic Washington State Park in the south.

The state also has a number of music and food festivals over the year. The Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally is held in late September and gives revenue to local charities around Fayetteville. Helena hosts the multi-day King Biscuit Blues Festival and celebrates both emerging and established blues artists.

Arkansas has come a long way since the American Civil War, but how up to date are they with weed legalization?

Is recreational cannabis legal in Arkansas?

Recreational cannabis use is a criminal offence in Arkansas. The state has some of the harshest recreational marijuana laws in the US, despite medicinal marijuana passing through state governments a number of years ago.

Marijuana was criminalized in Arkansas in 1923 – the same year as New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Since then, however, New Mexico and Arkansas are the only states on this list who have not legalized recreational use of cannabis.

Currently, possession of fewer than four ounces is a Class A misdemeanour which carries a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. Possession of more than four ounces carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If you're caught with cannabis a third time, it's considered a Class D felony – carrying a fine of up to $6,000 and up to six years behind bars.

There is a current push to legalise recreational cannabis for adults over 21, which is hoping to come into effect in December 2020. If the legislation passes, adults would be able to possess up to four ounces of flower and up to two ounces of concentrate and edible products, and cultivate up to six cannabis seedlings and six mature plants.

Like other legalised states, marijuana sales would be taxed accordingly, but the proposed Arkansas legislated goes a step further to state that 60% of tax revenue from cannabis sales would go toward operation of public pre-kindergarten and school programs, and 40% to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Is medicinal marijuana legal in Arkansas?

Medicinal marijuana was first put to a state ballot in late 2012, where it was defeated with 48.6% of the population in favour. Four years later, it was reintroduced and passed in a state ballot with 53% of voters in favour, making it the first state within the Bible Belt to legalise medicinal marijuana. The legislation allowed for between 20-40 dispensaries and 4-8 cultivators to be licensed across the state.

Although the bill was passed in late 2016, it was not until May 2019 that legal medicinal marijuana sales commenced when the first dispensary opened up. In the first 11 month of medicinal marijuana's legal sales, over $63 million was spent by Arkansas residents.

To access medicinal marijuana in Arkansas, you must be over the age of 18, and have certification of a qualifying condition from a physician. Patients under the age of 18 must have parental consent. In addition, members of the Arkansas National Guard and US Military cannot qualify for medicinal marijuana. 

Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and Tourette's syndrome. Medicinal marijuana can also be recommended for severe symptoms including nausea, seizures, chronic pain, muscle spasms and cachexia.

Medicinal marijuana patients can purchase up to 2.5 grams of marijuana every 14 days. Patients are able to assign a caregiver to purchase on their behalf, but home cultivation is not permitted. All marijuana products are to be consumed within private property, away from the public eye.

Arkansas laws allow for reciprocity between states. To qualify, patients must have valid registration in another state, and fill out a visiting patient form accompanied by proof of address.

Is CBD legal in Arkansas?

In 2018, the US federal government passed the Farm Bill – a bill which legalised hemp derived cannabidiol (CBD) products which contained less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis and keeping the percentage under 0.3% means CBD products won't get you high. In 2019, Arkansas updated their legal definition of marijuana to suit the federal bill.

So why use them at all? Well, there have been promising early studies of how CBD can help with a range of ailments including inflammation, anxiety, epilepsy, arthritis pain and can even help you quit drinking and smoking. 

CBD can be consumed in a wide variety of ways, too, including ingestible oil, edibles, topical creams and vapour. There are even cafes and bars in the UK which specialise in CBD products. In California, some dispensaries carry CBD-infused beer and there are a number of beverage companies investing in CBD research.

The positive results from using CBD products have led to a number of high-profile sports professionals getting behind various companies, including skaters Tony Hawk and Matt Miller, NBA star Jay Williams and UFC fighter Liz Carmouche. Boxing legend Mike Tyson has even opened up his own cannabis resort in California.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved its first CBD product Epidolex whcih is used to treat epilepsy. This suggests there is a great potential for CBD products to become the norm, and with more research, this natural remedy could become the next miracle cure.

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Laura Desmond
Laura Desmond

Laura Desmond is an Adelaide-based writer with a keen interest in the arts, gender politics and social change. She is currently working to obtain a Master in Writing through Swinburne University.

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