Arkansas voters may get the chance to vote on three separate bills that would legalize recreational marijuana in the Natural State. Medical marijuana patients will have some tough decisions to make if all three proposals get the required number of signatures to be put on the ballot.
The three proposals differ in their approach to legalizing medical marijuana, and although each proposal would legalize recreational cannabis in the State, each bill affects the current medical marijuana program differently. There are complicated problems with all three bills.
In this article, we’ll look at the proposed bills for cannabis legalization in Arkansas and stack each bill up to see where they fit for Arkansas medical marijuana patients.
3 Different Recreational Legalization Bills in Arkansas
The Arkansas True Grass Initiative to Legalize Cannabis in Arkansas
Arkansas True Grass was the first community to start gathering petitions for their Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022.
To get on the November ballot and be voted on, each amendment will need to get 89,151 verified signatures by July 8, 2022. If multiple bills end up on the ballot, the amendment with the highest votes will become law.
The AR True Grass bill aims to legalize recreational cannabis effective immediately, making up to 4 ounces legally possessable, with an unlimited number of dispensaries and cultivators and personal growing of up to 12 plants.
The bill also provides record expungement and release for people incarcerated, on parole, or on probation for violating the Arkansas Uniformed Controlled Substances Act for cannabis, provided their current offense was for a cannabis violation.
The taxes for the bill are a combined 13% tax consisting of an 8% excise tax and 5% local sales tax that goes into the State general fund.
This bill is the only one on the table that allows for personal growing, and it’s also the only bill that continues to tax medical marijuana after its passing.
The Arkansas Marijuana Amendment of 2022
The next bill that voters can choose to petition for and vote on is backed by Melissa Fults of Arkansas NORML.
This bill makes possession of up to 5 ounces of cannabis legal, but does not offer personal growing. It caps dispensaries at 173 (1/17,500 residents) and caps cultivators to 11 (1/300,000 residents). It goes into effect immediately but allows medical marijuana dispensaries to wait until January 1, 2023, before selling recreational cannabis.
The bill only taxes recreational marijuana at 15%, and the funds are split between the state’s marijuana program, Pre-K and after school programs, the UAMS Cancer Institute, and creates a low-income medical marijuana patient fund.
Under this proposal, the sale of medical marijuana would not be taxed.
The bill also provides record expungement for nonviolent felony misdemeanor convictions for possessing or selling less than 16 ounces of cannabis, paraphernalia charges, and cultivation charges for growing six plants or less.
The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment
The latest bill was introduced by Responsible Growth Arkansas and led by former Representative Eddie Armstrong, CEO & Chairman of Cannabis Capital Group.
This bill provides no home growing, a cap of 120 dispensaries, and a cap of 20 cultivators, though 8 cultivators which are currently operating receive tier 1 licenses that allow them to grow unlimited cannabis. The new 12 cultivators become capped at 250 plants at a time.
The bill goes into effect in the same month, though it allows medical marijuana dispensaries until March 8, 2023 to begin selling recreational cannabis. It taxes recreational cannabis at 10.5%.
Tax revenue goes to the State general fund, UAMS cancer research, stipends for law enforcement officers, and drug courts.
Medical marijuana is no longer taxed under this bill, though there’s no record expungement and possession is limited to 1 ounce.
How to Choose Between the 3 Arkansas Bills to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
The Arkansas True Grass Bill
By far and wide, the most generous bill among the three is the AR True Grass Initiative.
Personal growing is important to both patients and recreational users, and an unlimited number of dispensaries and cultivators provides the fairest system that’s the furthest from a monopoly.
It’s not without issues though, as there’s less specificity in where tax revenue goes. And, by making recreational sales legal immediately, the load on dispensary inventory would likely be temporarily extreme.
Patients won’t want to risk opening the doors to the general population overnight, as it could make it difficult for patients to get a consistent supply of their medicine for a while.
Ultimately, this is a temporary problem since home cultivation is allowed and there would be an unlimited number of dispensaries and cultivators to open as soon as possible. However, it’s not without concerns for patients in the short-term.
It’s the only bill on the table that continues to tax medical marijuana sales, which, no matter how fair, are excessive for cannabis.
It’s also the only bill that provides comprehensive expungement and release propositions. The language is left slightly muddy, so it’s hard to decipher whether people affected by cannabis convictions would benefit, considering the way charges are often stacked with cannabis convictions.
ARMA 2022, The Middle of the Road Approach to Cannabis
The next bill in line is Fults’ approach to slicing up the republican and democrat sides of the cannabis issue.
The number of dispensaries is increased significantly, but cultivators are still limited to only a handful of companies.
The bill gives dispensaries a few months to get ready for recreational sales, and medical marijuana wouldn’t be taxed. However, the bill fails to mention personal growing, which is a big deal for medical marijuana patients paying increasingly high prices to only a few companies right now.
The creation of a low-income patient fund is probably in line for the best dispersion of funds between all three bills; patients struggling to meet prices could benefit from a fund like this.
Though personal cultivation would certainly trump a few discounts on cannabis, this bill probably slides into second place among the three.
The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Bill, aka the Big Money Bill
Possibly the most contrasted bill among the three, Armstrong’s combination of business savvy supporters and tightly controlled language make this bill very attractive for cultivators, who are among the biggest donors for this amendment.
Bold, Good Day Farm, and Osage are among the donors for this bill, which unsurprisingly gives extreme advantages to currently operating cultivators over the new companies that would be able to join.
With 8 tier 1 cultivators able to grow however much cannabis they want and the rest of the 12 companies being restricted to 250 plants, this bill further targets high profits for select companies while restricting the competition for newly established businesses.
This proposal has the most significant financial backing, and it’s understandable why currently operating cultivators would want a law that immediately gives them an upper hand. Although this bill would end the taxation of medical marijuana, it provides the lowest possession limit, which is capped at just 1 ounce.
Which bill voters will choose will likely come down to how each initiative plans to advertise their bills, and ultimately it will depend on who gets the signatures.
While it’s unlikely we’ll hear too much about the negatives each bill might propose, we hope voters manage to cut through the red tape and pick the bill that makes the most sense for them!
Become an Arkansas Marijuana Patient
With Arkansas potentially voting on 3 separate legalization bills, medical marijuana patients should make sure they see lower prices, consistent access, and fairer laws. Currently, the only way to access legal marijuana in Arkansas is to obtain an Arkansas marijuana card.
We’re dedicated to helping patients every step of the way, feel free to give us a call at 844-249-8714, and we can answer your questions about getting medical marijuana in Arkansas.
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at 844-249-8714, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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