Arkansas Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Arkansas?
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Arkansas Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
ArkansasNo Yes Yes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Arkansas?

No. Unfortunately, Arkansas has some of the harshest cannabis laws in the nation, and the state’s legislature has shown at most modest interest in changing its policies.

Arkansans for Cannabis Reform worked diligently, aiding two separate ballot initiatives to pass through the state legislature in late 2020, but the momentum ended there. Arkansas’s best hope for recreational legalization now is waiting for it to pass at the federal level. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Arkansas?

Yes. Issue 6, The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA), was voted into law in 2016. AMMA allows approved patients with qualifying conditions access to medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription. These patients may consume up to 2.5 oz of marijuana every two weeks in a private space. Public consumption is illegal. 

Medical marijuana licensed sales did not begin until mid-2019, when the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs. The delay in licensing rollouts was due to legislative impediments from state lawmakers. Despite the initial resistance, Arkansas’ medical marijuana market has continued to boom, topping $200 million last year. As of 2021, there are 32 licensed dispensaries and five cultivators. 

Does Arkansas have a Medical Marijuana Sales tax?

Yes. Medical marijuana is subject to state (6.5%) and local sales taxes (up to 11.50%) at the same rate as other retail products. 

Is there a cannabis excise tax? 

Yes. Cultivation and dispensary facilities for medical marijuana are required to collect and remit a tax of 4%.

Are CBD products legal in Arkansas? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Arkansas Cannabis Timeline:

1923: Cannabis Prohibition begins in Arkansas along with New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. 

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs. 

2012: The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) Issue 5 was a failed medical marijuana ballot initiative. While the issue failed, it showed promise, only being defeated by 3%. 

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2016: The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA) Issue 6 legalized the medical use of marijuana. AMMA allows patients who obtain a doctor’s recommendation to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis to treat any of 12 qualifying medical conditions, also requiring between 20 and 40 cannabis dispensaries and 4 to 8 cultivators to be licensed by the state. Patients are not allowed to cultivate at home.

Unfortunately, like other medical marijuana cannabis laws licensing took longer than planned, authorized sales did not begin until 2019.

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2019: Arkansas’ Licensed Medical Marijuana Market opens

2020: Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana sales top $200 Million

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