Heads up partisans, it’s time to remove marijuana prohibition from your party platform, and this year’s election should provide all the proof you need that it’s past-time to get on the right side of history. We know this is the case because Arkansas, where 60% of that red-state’s voters easily handed Trump their six electoral votes, also agreed that it was time to end the war on medical marijuana patients by passing the Arkansas medical Marijuana Amendment, or Issue 6.
A long fight
In 2012 voters narrowly rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed patients to use marijuana for medical conditions. That ballot measure received 49 percent of the vote. Four years later organizers seem to have found a way to push past the 50% mark by removing the ability of citizens to grow their own medical marijuana from the proposal. Though patients will be forced to rely on others to grow and process their medicine, Issue 6 will certainly provide safe access to legal cannabis for Arkansans suffering from debilitating illness.
Arkansas was one of four states this year that had medical marijuana amendments on the ballot, and all four of those amendments were passed by voters. In addition to Arkansas, patients in Florida, North Dakota and Montana will now be able to medicate without the fear of having their door kicked in and being hauled away in handcuffs. Furthermore, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved full recreational marijuana legalization for any adult over the age of 21. The times, they are a changin’.
What Arkansas medical marijuana patients can expect
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA) will create a robust, fully-operational medical cannabis industry within the state, and includes several more “progressive” measures that aren’t seen in other states. In short, the new law will:
- Allow a minimum of 20 and maximum of 40 medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas.
- Allow a minimum of four and maximum of eight marijuana cultivation facilities.
- Provide safe access to medical marijuana to patients with at least one of 18 qualifying conditions (listed below).
- Create employment, housing and education protection to registered medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Also included is protection for potential organ transplant recipients who have legally used cannabis, protection for parents who use or administer medical marijuana and protection for doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients.
- Provide reciprocity to medical marijuana patients visiting from other states.
Patients with one of the following conditions will be eligible for a medical marijuana ID card in Arkansas:
- Hepatitis C
- Tourette’s snydrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Severe arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
If it is a chronic or debilitating disease that causes (or if the treatment of that disease causes):
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Intractable pain that does not respond to other treatment for more than 6 months
- Severe nausea
- MS or other conditions that cause severe muscle spasms
It should also be noted that the AMMA does not provide for in-home cannabis cultivation by patients or caregivers. According to organizers this was one of the biggest differences between Issue 6 and Issue 7, which was a competing measure that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court on the basis of invalid signatures in late October.
There are several steps left before Arkansas patients are allowed to buy medicine in a dispensary. First the AMMA will go to the Legislature, where several laws must be created in order to comply with the new constitutional amendment. “…the fight now moves into the Legislature because with this amendment being added to the constitution the Legislature will have to pass literally dozen of laws to implement it” said Jerry Cox, executive director of Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, one of the measure’s opponents who has already vowed to work on passing anti-marijuana legislation in the legislature in order to reduce access.
State agencies now have up to 120 days to develop rules and regulations pertaining to their duties. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which is the state agency that will be responsible for licensing and inspecting cannabis-related businesses, should begin accepting applications from potential dispensaries and cultivation facilities on June 1, 2017.
Stay with SouthCANN for continuing coverage of medical marijuana in Arkansas as well as marijuana legalization information across the south. Be sure to like us on Facebook for the latest news, information and updates.
Download and read the entire Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (12mb PDF)