Amendment To Expand Arkansas MMJ Program

Medical marijuana Arkansas
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A coalition of Arkansas cannabis industry leaders and patient advocates filed a proposed constitutional amendment with Attorney General Tim Griffin today to expand the state medical marijuana program, increase the length of time patient cards last and allow qualified patients to grow up to seven cannabis plants of their own.

The amendment has the support of marijuana advocates Melissa Fults and David Couch, who opposed a recreational amendment that failed at the ballot box in 2022, they each said by phone today.

The Patient Access Amendment would amend Amendment 98, which voters passed in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas.

The amendment filed today would increase the types of medical professionals who can certify a patient for a medical marijuana card to include pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A press release from the group today said the change would benefit Arkansans who live in rural areas, where access to primary care physicians are limited.

The amendment would also allow patients to be assessed and certified by telemedicine, the press release said.

The proposal would increase the length of time patient cards remain active from one year to three years and would eliminate the fee the state charges for the cards. The state currently charges $50 for the cards, and they must be renewed annually.

The proposal would also allow qualifying health care practitioners to certify patients for the program based on any medical need, rather than only the 18 qualifying conditions allowed in the 2016 constitutional amendment.

The proposed amendment would also allow qualified patients to grow up to seven mature plants and seven immature plants and would allow the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division to determine any additional rules for the grow-your-own program. The 2016 amendment does not contain any provision for patients to grow plants at home.

The proposal would loosen the state’s reciprocity with other states’ medical marijuana programs by eliminating the requirement for out-of-state cardholders to apply for temporary cards to visit Arkansas dispensaries.

The proposal does not include a provision for expunging past marijuana offenses, because that would have required a separate amendment, according to Bill Paschall, executive director of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association. Paschall said his industry group pushed for an expungement bill in the state Legislature in 2023 and will continue to do so in 2025.

Fults, a longtime Arkansas marijuana advocate, opposed the recreational amendment in 2022 but said she supports the amendment that was filed today.

“Since I helped write it, YEP!” Fults said via text message today.

Couch, a veteran of the citizen initiative process who wrote the successful 2016 amendment, said he supports the new measure.

“I wrote the original amendment to help people who need this for their physical and mental health,” Couch said today. “Any law that increases patient access is an important improvement.”

Paschall described the amendment as a “tweak” of Amendment 98, which voters approved by a 53% vote in 2016. Arkansas now has eight cultivators, 38 dispensaries and nine cannabis processors. The state medical marijuana program has done more than $1 billion in sales since the first dispensary opened in 2019. Dispensaries sold a record $283 million worth of products last year, according to the latest report from the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Paschall said the group plans to form a ballot question committee next week. The officers for the committee will be Lynne Parker, owner of Purspirit dispensary in Fayetteville; Abraham Carpenter, owner of cannabis cultivator Carpenter Farms Medical Group; Roger Dean, a patient advocate in Benton; and TJ Boyle, an accountant, Paschall said.

In 2022, voters rejected the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, a proposal that would have allowed general retail sales of marijuana, with 56.25% voting against the measure.