How Medical Cannabis Will Be Implemented in Arkansas

How Medical Cannabis Will Be Implemented in Arkansas


It’s in the history books, folks. Arkansas is the first state in the Bible belt to pass medical marijuana — or cannabis, as its proponents prefer it be referred to.

However, it will take several months for the new law to take place and allow for qualifying patients to buy the drug.

When Will Medical Cannabis Be Available?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson called for $3 million to be put to use toward setting up the administration for the new law last week.

Throughout the next month, Hutchinson and state House and Senate leaders will appoint members to the Medical Marijuana Commission, which will be tasked with giving out licenses to dispensaries through an application process. Between 20 to 40 dispensaries are allowed under the law, but no more than four dispensaries can be located in a single county.

The agencies that are in charge of enforcing the law — the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Beverage Control Division and the newly formed Medical Marijuana Commission — have about four months to adopt the new rules and regulations for the drug. So look toward March 2017. There’s a deadline by June 2017 for the Medical Marijuana Commission to start accepting applications for dispensaries.

How to Receive It

Once the program is set up, patients who have written certification from a doctor that they have a qualifying medical condition — there are 12, e.g. cancer, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, Tourrettes syndrome, Alzheimer’s — can apply for a state-issued certification card that will allow them to buy from approved dispensaries. Patients under 18 must have written consent from a parent or guardian.

Qualified users can name a person as their “caregiver” and this person can obtain marijuana from a dispensary. A person convicted of a felony involving violence or the violation of controlled-substance laws within the past 10 years can not serve as a caregiver, however.

Patients or designated caregivers are allowed no more than 2.5 ounces within a 14 day time period from dispensaries.

Dispensaries cannot be located within 1,500 feet of a public or private school, church or daycare that existed before the date of the dispensary’s application. Cultivation facilities aren’t allowed within 3,000 feet of those buildings.

Personal, independent growing is not allowed under Issue 6, but it was one of the main proponents of Issue 7, which was invalidated by an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling for a lack of valid petition signatures.

How It Will Effect Tax Revenues

Under the law, 50 percent of tax revenue gained from the sales of medical cannabis will go to the Department of Finance and Administration for grants to technical institutes and vocational-technical schools. Thirty percent will go to the state General Revenue Fund. Ten percent will go to the Department of Career Education for workforce training programs. Five percent will go to the Department of Health, while 2 percent will go to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration Division, 2 percent to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division and 1 percent will go to the Medical Marijuana Commission.


Part of the law offers legal protection against arrest or prosecution for cardholders, caregivers, doctors and employees of dispensaries and testing labs.

However, those without proper identification or license could still be arrested. Federal law still has all forms of cannabis listed as illegal, but prosecution would have to come from a federal agent or body of federal government.

Because the law is an amendment to the state constitution, the law can’t be struck down entirely, and a two-thirds vote is needed to modify it from state congress or a referendum by the people. Cities and municipalities are allowed to hold special elections initiated by voters to ban dispensaries or cultivation centers.

Some critics of the law have stated they seek to limit the law through banning advertisements and what is allowed to be sold, such as candy edibles.

In the Arkansas general election, 53 percent (581,259) voted for Issue 6, and 47 percent (511,977) voted against it. For context, the last time Arkansas voted on medical cannabis in 2012, the state voted 51 percent (537,898) against and 48 percent (507,757) voted for it.

Ballot Issue 7, the Medical Cannabis Act, was struck down in a 5-2 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that found more than 12,000 signatures for the ballot initiative were invalid before Election Day. Votes were not counted.

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