Arkansas marijuana patients enjoy the freedom of purchasing and using cannabis legally in the Natural State. For those without a medical marijuana card, possession of cannabis is still a criminal offense, at best a misdemeanor, at worst a full-on felony charge. But now with the city of Little Rock’s new ordinance, treating consumers like criminals may be at the beginning of the end.
Arkansas Marijuana News: Little Rock (sort of) Decriminalizes Pot
Little Rock City Ordinance for Misdemeanor Marijuana
On Tuesday May 18th, 2021, the city of Little Rock, Arkansas passed City Director Ken Richardson’s ordinance to make marijuana misdemeanor offenses the lowest law enforcement priority in a 7-3 yea vote.
In truth, this has been an uphill battle for a while, this is Richardson’s third try to get this ordinance passed.
Third time must be the charm.
The ordinance, which is not designed to provide immunity or interfere with any federal marijuana charges, marks an important step in legalization for Arkansas, whether the city wants to admit to it or not.
The Little Rock City Police Chief Ken Humphrey may say this has been the internal policy they’ve had all along, however the numbers in Arkansas as a whole are very disappointing.
Uneven Stats for Arkansas Cannabis Consumers
A report from the American Civil Liberties Union says that between 2010 and 2018 marijuana arrests rose by nearly 50% in Arkansas.
There were over 10,000 marijuana related arrests in 2018 alone, almost all of which were for possession.
The report also says that black people are "2.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested, despite comparable national marijuana usage rates."
This is the 6th largest increase in cannabis arrests in the nation.
This puts any political or legal moves from the state and cities under a microscope. It is dreadful to think that in 2021 there are disproportionate rates of arrests and convictions for one race over another with very similar usage statistics.
Unfortunately, the problem gets worse when you look at population data, violent crime hotspots, income disparity, and non-violent felony convictions with priors.
The difference in arrest and conviction rates aren’t exclusive to skin color either.
Income and access to a quality legal defense are high priorities when your city, state, or country is aggressively trying to impose punishment for what they consider a heinous act of defiance over a plant.
The difference between a public defender and the family lawyer might be the difference between you leaving the courtroom in handcuffs, or with your freedoms.
Law Enforcement Under the Reign of Political Rule
It is common knowledge that law enforcement and the legal system can push the limits by using and stacking smaller, less significant charges to escalate their investigations and convictions.
This is a frequent occurrence in traffic stops, for example.
A broken taillight can lead to being pulled over, leading to “smelling” marijuana, leading to a warrantless search, leading to fines, fees, and could even lead to jail time!
Due to the complex and specific legal nature of interactions between law enforcement and civilians, it is easy for citizens to be entrapped or confused when pushed with assertive authority figures suggesting they are allowed to do “xyz”, whether that is legally true or not.
It is very easy for a person to lose their rights and freedoms. Law enforcement pursuing marijuana related offenses not only makes it easier for the average person to lose their rights, but reduces a police department’s ability to dedicate resources to meaningful and necessary protection and servitude.
When this truth is being combatted by the otherwise “business-as-usual” approach of “pull over, find a reason, make the arrest”, it gets a little heated.
Law enforcement officers have a very tough job already, it is stressful and dangerous. It would stand to reason that perhaps often, less regulation over nuanced situations would help officers execute a more individualized approach to what they are addressing.
Unfortunately, people are people, and people abuse the system. And while not all law enforcement officers will take advantage of people, it is clear that an unacceptable number of them do.
Even if that number were as low as 1, that is certainly 1 too many.
A Different Approach to Cannabis
It is therefore difficult to approach the situation by allowing our police officers pure immunity in pursuing what they believe to be potential non-violent criminal offenses.
If you are entering a situation with the predetermined goal of identifying illegal behaviors and addressing them, you are immediately taking the stance of “guilty until proven innocent” and that is an inappropriate approach in dealing with the public.
However, this is ironically one of the things that makes a police officer’s job so difficult: when a crime is being committed, or a crime may be committed, any reason to stop or prevent that crime should be morally or ethically justifiable.
And to our government, and thereby law enforcement, recreational cannabis use is still a crime.
This is why the opportunity for political oversight is available.
When we can clearly identify what constitutes a “crime”, we can more clearly identify how to approach it.
With respect to cannabis, anyone is reasonable enough to understand that a plant (with medical properties) should almost certainly not share the same penalties, prosecutions, or convictions, as anything that seriously harms people or violates the rights of others.
This is at the root of why the city of Little Rock has deprioritized misdemeanor cannabis offenses. It is an unnecessary distraction to meaningful law enforcement activity, and addressing racial disparity in the legal system is a desperately important pursuit for the Natural State.
We are far from the days of Reefer Madness. We’ve had plenty of time to see the results of both medical and recreational cannabis in the country, and in the world.
Legalization plays a critical role in refining our political ecosystem, our legal infrastructure, and our community.
It is at the heart and soul of a trivial argument that has resulted in the unfair conviction and prosecution of otherwise innocent people, and it’s time for Arkansas legislators and Arkansas residents to step up and do the right thing for our community.
Become an Arkansas Marijuana Patient
Arkansas medical marijuana patients enjoy immunity from the state’s legal repercussions of cannabis possession under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act.
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!