is weed legal in arkansas

Is Weed Legal in Arkansas in 2024? Plus More FAQs About AR Weed Laws & Arkansas Marijuana Legalization

Photo by Chase R. Smith

Is Weed Legal In Arkansas?

Currently, only medical marijuana is legal in Arkansas. In 2022, Issue 4 attempted to legalize recreational cannabis but it did not receive the adequate number of votes. However, as cannabis legalization efforts spread throughout the US, there may be more attempts at legalizing recreational cannabis in Arkansas.

Medical marijuana is not just driving a new holistic approach to medicine and pain management but also a thriving industry. Retail sales of cannabis are projected to come in at over $33.6 billion (USD)for 2023 and are projected to reach as high as $53.5 billion (USD) by 2027.

A state like Arkansas can transform its entire economy by legalizing cannabis by driving a whole new industry. However, the collective attitude towards cannabis is still being rehabilitated. Growing scientific research into compounds like CBD and terpenes are showing that cannabis can help.

Cannabis law can be fairly confusing to the average person because it seems like legalizing cannabis should be a simple switch from illegal to legal. However, there’s a whole governmental framework that must be established to allow the legalization of cannabis. While Issue 4 did fail, certain edits to the law could mean another attempt that might actually get passed.

The high value of legalized cannabis to the local economy and shifting attitudes about cannabis are changing how laws work.This post will cover the current state of Arkansas marijuana law and how cannabis law works in general. Before we dive into specifics let’s cover how cannabis law works.

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How Do Cannabis Laws Work?

Before covering Arkansas’s laws, here’s a quick breakdown of cannabis legalization throughout the US. Currently, cannabis remains illegal throughout the country but only on the federal level. However, there are three ways states can make cannabis available in their state:

  • Decriminalization is not legalizing cannabis but it reduces or even eliminates the criminal charges of cannabis possession. This does not make it legal to use cannabis. There are important key differences between decriminalization and legalization.
  • Medical Marijuana Legalization allows for the prescription, use, and sales of medical cannabis. The medical conditions that allow for scripts and the dispensaries that can distribute them are regulated by the government. The nature of these laws and the associated bureaucracy m are often why medical marijuana can both take time to get legally passed and more delays to be implemented.
  • Recreational Marijuana Legalization essentially fully legalizes cannabis throughout the state. This also opens up dispensaries to all adults that are legally of age. There can still be caps for how much a person can obtain, carry, and purchase and in some cases smoking weed or edibles can remain illegal.

The dilemma of cannabis legalization is there’s a lot of bureaucratic red tape and changes that must take place before states can open themselves up to legal cannabis sales. Part of why legislation like Issue 4 can fail is certain aspects of the law might not fully align with the state government.

Weed Legalization Arkansas

Arkansas is one of the more conservative states with regards to cannabis. That being said, the three forms of legalization are at play in Arkansas.

The conservative nature of Arkansas meant possession of any amount could lead to a hefty fine and jail time. But views have been shifting. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2016 and after some time legal sales began in 2019.

For the first time ever, in November 2022, recreational cannabis was added to the ballot but failed to get sufficient votes. Let’s review some of the specific laws at play in Arkansas.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten

Arkansas Cannabis Laws

Arkansas was one of the first states to criminalize cannabis. In 1923, Arkansas joined New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in banning cannabis. It also had fairly strict laws and was a “smoke a joint, lose your license” state meaning any cannabis charge could result in your license getting suspended.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (Issue 5) appeared for a statewide vote on the November 6, 2012 ballot. This act would have allowed non-profit organizations to grow and sell medical cannabis to legally permitted patients. It would also allow patients that live over 5 miles from a legal dispensary to cultivate a small number of plants on their own property. It did not pass the vote.

Issue 6, a.k.a. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment appeared on the November 8, 2016 ballot. It legalized the medical use of cannabis within the state and outlined the rollout of medical cannabis. A different ballot measure, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (Issue 7) also appeared on the ballot but it was disqualified by the Arkansas Supreme Court in the case of Benca v. Martin which disqualified the ballot measure due to a lack of signatures.

Despite being legalized in 2016, the amount of legal and structural strangers that must be made means Arkansas did not have its first medical marijuana sales until May 2019 when the first dispensary opened in the state.

Issue 4, a.k.a. The Marijuana Legalization Initiative, appeared on the November 2022 ballot. If legalized it would have approved the following:

  • the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and over
  • the sale of cannabis at state licensed dispensaries
  • a 10% tax on recreational cannabis sales, in addition to existing state and local sales taxes
  • the division of tax revenue between law enforcement (15%), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (10 %), and the state drug court program (5 %), with the remainder going to the state general fund

Part of the complexity of cannabis law is any one of those list items could have lost the vote for legal recreational cannabis. Part of what can make these laws fail is the language of the law or certain regulations which can cause residents to vote no.

There is still potential for legalized cannabis, however, since legalized cannabis would be such a boon to the local economy.

Is Recreational Weed Legal In Arkansas?

Despite the potential of the Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Issue 4), the first attempt at recreational cannabis legislation in Arkansas, it sadly lost the vote 43.7% to 56.25%. This does not mean there is no hope because recreational legislation can appear on the ballot multiple times or can be approved by the state legislature depending on the state’s legal processes.

Did Recreational Pot Pass In Arkansas?

Sadly, Issue 4 did not receive the proper amount of votes to pass in Arkansas so the attempt at legalizing cannabis did fail. However, there is still hope. Recreational cannabis can often take multiple attempts before legalization can take place.

Robert McLarty, the campaign director for Issue 4 hinted at potential future legislation:

“We are proud of what we have done and the first time in history that this has been on the ballot, and we are going to go back and look back at what we can do next time and bring it back to the voters in 2024.”

Time will tell if recreational cannabis makes its way onto the ballot.

Photo by Budding

When Is Recreational Weed Going To Be Legal In Arkansas?

The defeat of Issue 4 did put the implementation of recreational weed way into the future. At the earliest, new legislation could be added to the 2024 ballot. If a potential ballot measure gets voted on and approved it may take years for a state to open up legal recreational sales.

For example, recreational sales require the relicensing of dispensaries for recreational sales as well as the establishment of what government agency will regulate cannabis in the state. At the earliest recreational weed would be legal in 2025 pending the appropriate legislation and a winning vote. Even then, it may take more time for cannabis sales to open to the public.

The question, “When Is Weed Going To Be Legal In Arkansas?” depends on many factors including the legislation, a winning vote, and then the implementation of the laws that are voted into place. Time will tell if the Arkansas constituency will change conservative attitudes about cannabis.

Is THC Legal In Arkansas?

Currently tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, is only legal medically or for registered patients under the state’s medical marijuana laws. THC is still considered a controlled substance.

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are legal if they are derived from federally legal hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp derivatives products. So technically, THC is legal in some cases and for some residents in Arkansas.

Is Weed Decriminalized In Arkansas?

Simple marijuana possession has been decriminalized to some degree in Arkansas. Possession of less than four ounces as a first offense is considered a misdemeanor rather than a felony. It can mean fines as high as $2500 and as much as a year of incarceration.

However cannabis is not fully decriminalized. Some cities have voted to decriminalize cannabis.

In 2006, Eureka Springs residents voted 64%–36% to make enforcement of cannabis laws the lowest police priority.

In 2008, Fayetteville residents approved a similar initiative with a 62%–38% margin. However, a 2019 report by the Arkansas Justice Collective found that cannabis arrests actually increased by 44% in Fayetteville since the measure passed.

In 2021, Little Rock Board of Directors voted 7–3 to make cannabis for personal use the lowest possible police priority.

Is Medical Weed Legal In Arkansas?

As of 2016, Medical Marijuana has been legal in Arkansas. It is managed by the Arkansas Department of Health. The Arkansas Alcohol and Beverage Control agency is responsible for issuing licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Weed is possible as a prescription for license holders so you will need to see a medical doctor and not only receive a diagnosis for an approved condition but also you’ll need to apply for a medical marijuana card. Luckily, Green Health Docs can help.

What Conditions Are Required for A Medical Marijuana Card in Arkansas?

States can legalize medical marijuana but few allow carte blanche for medical marijuana prescriptions. In Arkansas, the only approved medical conditions for a cannabis prescription include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Hiv/Aids
  • Hepatitis C
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Severe Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Intractable pain which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than six months
  • Severe Nausea
  • Seizures including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms including without limitation those characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis
  • and any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health

Photo by Mick Haupt

How Long Does it Take To Get Your Medical Card in Arkansas?

You may wonder how long it takes from the date of your appointment to when you can legally get your medical marijuana card. Luckily, the team at Green Health Docs is available to help expedite the process.

Here’s a rough timeline of getting your medical marijuana card:

  • Schedule an appointment with a GHD provider
    • Telemedicine appointments are available 1-2 days per week.
    • Patients can typically schedule their appointment for the same week or even the same/next day.
  • Meet with the provider. If approved, the doctor will issue the patient’s written certification within 24 hours.
  • Once the patient has received their written certification, they will then have to complete their registration online with the state.
    • The state typically approves registration applications within 7-14 business days.
  • Once a patient has successfully registered with the state, they will receive their physical ID card in the mail within 7-10 days.

You can receive your card 16-24 days from your appointment.

Is It Legal To Grow Weed In Arkansas?

Growing cannabis is illegal except for state-approved medical marijuana cultivators who are issued licenses by the state.

Even medical marijuana patients are not allowed to grow their own supply at home under the current law. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 was proposed which would allow for home cultivation by medical patients but it was rejected for some of its language.

Is It Legal To Smoke Weed In Arkansas?

No, outside of medical exceptions for card carrying patients, smoking marijuana remains illegal in Arkansas carrying various penalties. Violating this law could mean fines and even possible jail time.

Final Thoughts

Currently, cannabis is only available for Arkansas residents who receive their medical marijuana card. Time may change as growing financial incentives are driving more states to legalizing recreational cannabis. The money and health benefits to cannabis are growing rapidly and being discovered throughout the United States.

If you want to legally use cannabis in Arkansas, reach out to Green Health Docs to get your medical marijuana card. We strive to make the process simply, straightforward and easy to get you legally exercising your right to use cannabis to help your health.


Dr. Anand DugarThis article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.