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A marijuana industry group on Friday proposed a constitutional amendment to improve patient access to medical cannabis and legalize the drug for recreational use in Arkansas if it becomes legal under federal law.
Arkansans for Patient Access said it was submitting ballot language to Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Friday for the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024.
The ballot initiative would make it legal for patients to grow their own cannabis at home and make a series of changes to Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution, which Arkansans ratified in 2016 to legalize marijuana for medical use.
The full text of the amendment and ballot title can be read here.
The tweaks comprise a wishlist for patients as well as cultivators and dispensaries.
“The goal of this ballot proposal is to reaffirm and build upon Amendment 98 to better serve patients,” Amy Martin, owner of The Greenery dispensary in Fort Smith, said a statement from the ballot question committee. “This amendment reflects a commitment to the principles established by the state’s voters. It reduces barriers and streamlines processes so qualifying patients can access the medicines and treatment options that best serve them.”
The major changes being proposed are:
- Allowing patients and designated caregivers over age 21 to grow up to seven mature plants and seven younger marijuana plants.
- Expanding who can certify patients for medical marijuana cards from only doctors to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
- Permitting providers to qualify patients based on any medical need rather than the state’s current 18 qualifying conditions.
- Allowing health care providers to conduct patient assessments via telemedicine.
- Expanding access to out-of-state residents by recognizing patient cards from other states or allowing nonresidents to obtain Arkansas patient cards.
- Abolishing application fees for patients seeking registry ID cards.
- Increasing the expiration date for new patient cards from one year to three years.
The proposal would also create a recreational cannabis trigger law, permitting adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis if the federal government removes marijuana from the Schedule of Controlled Substances or if marijuana possession is no longer a federal crime.
The Biden administration is considering rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III.
Schedule III drugs are substances like anabolic steroids and ketamine that have “a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” and have medical applications, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” per the DEA.
Under the trigger provision, commercial growth and distribution would be limited to the cultivation facilities and dispensaries currently licensed under Arkansas’ medical marijuana law. (A similar provision in an Arkansas recreational amendment offered by the industry in 2022 led to it being voted down at the ballot box.)
Attorney David Couch — who drafted Amendment 98 — and patient advocate Melissa Fults opposed the 2022 efforts, but they have made public their support for Arkansans for Patient Access’ current effort.
The group said it was submitting the measure to Griffin’s office on Friday, though a spokesman said the office hadn’t received it as of about 3:30 p.m.
The attorney general has 10 business days to review the measure and ballot language to determine if it is sufficient to appear on the November ballot.
Canvassers would then have until July 5 to gather 90,704 signatures from registered voters to qualify for ballot access.
Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. This article was published with permission from the Arkansas Advocate. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and Twitter.