In the last decade, the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes has gained increasing acceptance among all quarters of American society.
However, while states such as struggling California, which leads the country in homelessness, and Nevada have recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, others still lag behind.
Arkansas ranks among the states that have been somewhat slow to catch up with the trends favoring recreational cannabis. Let us look into the current market scenario in Arkansas for cannabis.
Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Arkansas introduced a law in 1923 which criminalized the use of cannabis for all purposes even though this drug caused very little harm to anyone while everyone in the civilized world knew the dangers of alcohol (prohibition failed with alcohol just like it failed with marijuana). Recently, however, the law has been made more flexible as Arkansas legalized medical marijuana in 2016.
The law has listed 18 medical conditions for which medical marijuana can be used by the patients. The conditions include conditions such as ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and PTSD, among others.
Under the current law in Arkansas, possession of up to four ounces of marijuana without prescription counts as a Class A misdemeanor.
The offense carries a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500. Third time offense is counted as a Class D Felony which carries a prison sentence of up to six years and a fine of up to $6,000.
As per the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), over 540,000 Arkansans will be eligible for medical marijuana based on the health conditions listed.
State officials have put forward more conservative estimates. Officials expect that nearly 30,000 to 50,000 people will sign up for the medical marijuana program over the next three to five years.
Based on these estimates of the state officials, market analysts project sales worth $30 million to $60 million within first few years of the implementation of the medical marijuana program in Arkansas.
The state will impose a 4% tax on all transactions involving medical marijuana. Many people who abide by logic say this should have happened decades ago.
State Politics around Cannabis
Asa Hutchinson, the Republican Governor of Arkansas, had opposed the amendment seeking legalization of medical marijuana back in 2016. He said he was against “good medicines being determined at the ballot box.”
Hutchinson was also an ardent supporter of former failed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough stance on cannabis. Sessions was fired and failed to bring honest and transparency to the US Department of Justice but this is another topic.
However, noting the growing appeal of medical marijuana among his constituents, Hutchinson seems to have gone softer on the issue. On this matter, some common sense has resurrected itself with Asa it seems. In recent interviews, he has suggested that he is amenable to the idea of medical marijuana, but does not want to extend the idea in the direction of legalizing its recreational use.
While both the Republicans and Democrats seem to be on the same page when it comes to medical marijuana, it appears that legalization of recreational marijuana will take more time in Arkansas.
Arkansas has moved quickly to establish the guidelines and the process for the distribution of medical marijuana in the state. Initially, five cultivation licenses and 32 dispensary licenses have been offered. The state charges $7,500 application fee from the dispensaries and $15,000 from cultivators.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has finalized five cultivator licenses despite roadblocks in the process. On the other hand, the process for finalizing the dispensaries licenses in still continuing. There are 203 applicants and officials expect medical marijuana to reach the shelves by March of 2019.