Medical Marijuana in Arkansas
About The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program
Historically, the state of Arkansas has been strictly anti-cannabis with some of the strictest marijuana possession laws in the country. That began to change in 2016 when Arkansas voters chose to legalize medical marijuana. Then in 2017 the production of hemp was made legal. And then in 2018 hemp-derived CBD oil was declared legal.
In this article, we’ll dive into the state’s medical marijuana program and applicable rules and regulations for those who feel their medical condition warrants partaking. We’ll also talk about why you might or might not want to use products containing THC even if you do qualify for the medical marijuana program.
History of Arkansas Medical Marijuana
Marijuana — all cannabis for that matter — was made illegal in Arkansas way back in 1923. Although a 2012 attempt to legalize medical marijuana known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act failed to pass, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, or Issue 6 as the ballot initiative was named, was approved by voters in 2016 by a 6 percent margin.
Issue 6 established a system for the regulation and taxation of medical marijuana and called for the creation of the Medical Marijuana Commission consisting of five members to oversee the state’s MMJ program.
In order to implement the program lawmakers needed to pass a series of legislative actions and twenty-four separate bills were signed into law. Among other things, these bills set up licensing procedures for the cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana in Arkansas. A four percent “special privilege” tax to be paid by cultivation facilities, dispensaries, or other businesses was also implemented.
In the more than two years since the bill was signed into law, progress has been slow. In fact, as we write, medical marijuana is just now becoming available to patients in the state.
By early 2019, the Medical Marijuana Commission had licensed five cultivators and 32 dispensaries. Products are/were expected to be available to dispensaries in April of 2019. Also, the state had approved more than 7,000 patients.
Growing your own marijuana is prohibited and can get you in big trouble.
How To Get A Medical Marijuana Card In Arkansas
In order to be approved for a medical marijuana card in Arkansas, your medical provider must be a doctor of medicine or osteopathy licensed in the state of Arkansas, have a controlled substances license on file with the DEA, be in good standing to practice medicine in Arkansas, and have a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the patient they are certifying for medical cannabis.
In order to qualify for a registry card to legally purchase medical marijuana, you must meet the following qualifications:
- Be 18 years of age or older or be a minor patient with parental consent.
- Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.
- Have the official written certification from a physician.
- Be an Arkansas resident with proof of residency.
Unfortunately, Arkansas law prohibits members of Arkansas National Guard and the United States Military from obtaining a registry ID card.
Step 1 in obtaining your Arkansas medical marijuana card is to talk to your physician. If your doctor can or will not certify patients for medical marijuana you find a list of doctors in Arkansas who offer this service click here.
If you wish to apply for your Arkansas medical marijuana card online you can do so here.
Application forms can be downloaded here.
You may also request the forms to be mailed to you by calling 1-833-214-8619.
If you are mailing your application rather than applying online you’ll need to send it to this address:
Arkansas Department of Health
Medical Marijuana Section
4815 West Markham Slot 50
Little Rock, AR 72205
Qualified patients must pay a non-refundable $50 fee for a medical marijuana card. And there is a $50 annual renewal fee.
The card is valid for one year from the date of issue, however, a physician can also specify a duration.
Arkansas Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions:
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Tourette syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cachexia/wasting syndrome
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Intractable pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizure disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
In addition to these conditions, there is a provision in the law which allows other conditions to be approved by the Department of Health. In fact, a bill is being considered at the time of writing which could add 40 more specific medical conditions to the list (link below). This bill may or may not have passed by the time you read this.
Do You Really Need An Arkansas Medical Marijuana Card?
There are some hoops to jump through and some extra costs involved in getting a doctor to provide a medical marijuana recommendation. Some folks have been purchasing marijuana illicitly for years and may not want to deal with all that, but rather just continue to purchase from their local dealer. As you are probably aware there are some serious risks to taking this approach that might make it worth the extra time and money to go legit.
Be forewarned: Arkansas has some of the most stringent marijuana laws in the U.S. As of 2012, Arkansas was arresting more than 5,000 citizens and visitors alike each year on marijuana charges, 90 percent of which are due to possession of small amounts for personal use. Be further forewarned that African Americans in Arkansas are more three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white folks, sadly.
So what’s at risk here? If you’re caught with anything up to four ounces of marijuana without a license you could be facing up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Penalties for subsequent offenses are far harsher.
Furthermore, if you are caught operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana — regardless of whether or not you’re a certified medical marijuana patient — you’ll be subject to the state’s drunk driving laws which could result in the loss of your license for a period of time, hefty fines, and potential jail time.
There are some cities in Arkansas that have passed measures that make adult marijuana possession the lowest priority for local law enforcement including Fayetteville and Eureka Springs. Although you might have an easier time of it in those cities, it still won’t be a whole lot of fun dealing with the police if they catch you driving around smoking weed — even if you do happen to hold a medical card. The state has very strict drugged driving laws. Should you fail a drug test you risk losing your license and a ton of money on lawyers and fines.
Furthermore, Arkansas’ medical marijuana program doesn’t change the fact that marijuana is still federally illegal. If you are caught on federal property such as a national park or military base, you’re looking at possible felony charges and an extended stay at a federal prison.
But if you’re using marijuana for legitimate medical purposes and not for kicks, do you really need the THC? Or might perfectly legal hemp CBD oil alone do the trick and thereby eliminate any legal risks?
And there’s another risk. While Arkansas regulations require stringent testing of medical marijuana products, the black market has no such restrictions. That means the marijuana sold by illicit dealers is extremely likely to contain dangerous chemicals such as pesticides and possibly other toxic contaminants including mold.
Medical Marijuana vs. CBD Oil
For those of you who qualify for an Arkansas medical marijuana card but might not want the risks that come with consuming THC, let’s discuss the difference between marijuana and hemp-derived CBD oil.
Even though one gets people high and the other does not, hemp and marijuana are actually the same species of plant — Cannabis sativa. We’ll just call it “cannabis.”
It has only been within the past century that there has been a distinction between hemp and marijuana. Today we refer to strains of cannabis which are used for food and fiber as industrial hemp. And we refer to strains used for medicinal and recreational purposes as marijuana. Interestingly, although the plant used to produce CBD oil is often referred to as industrial hemp, it is not a strain of industrial hemp, but rather a strain of marijuana which has had the THC bred out of it. There are also strains which have varying ratios of THC to CBD.
Marijuana strains have been bred specifically to be high in cannabinoids, especially THC, the cannabinoid which causes a high. It has only been in the past couple of decades that marijuana cultivators began to develop strains of marijuana which were high in CBD and lower in THC.
Hemp CBD Oil Laws In Arkansas
Hemp was originally made illegal in Arkansas many decades ago before anyone made any real distinction between marijuana and hemp. It wasn’t until the spring of 2017, that the Arkansas Industrial Hemp Act was signed, creating a research pilot program to be governed by the Arkansas Plant Board in partnership with the University of Arkansas. The Act permitted universities, market researchers, farmers, and processors to begin research on the cultivation and processing of hemp. Although it did end up creating an opening for CBD sales in Arkansas the act did not specifically legalize the possession of hemp CBD oil.
A little over a year later, after 80 years of federal prohibition, the federal government finally legalized the cultivation of hemp via the 2018 farm appropriations bill. When the bill was signed at the end of December, hemp and CBD were forever divorced from marijuana and removed from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of federally controlled substances.
Arkansas followed up with legislation signed in early 2019 which expressly legalized the production, sale, and possession of hemp and hemp CBD oil.
One thing that’s important to point out is that, at the time of writing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still has not approved the use of CBD in foods. However, without the cooperation of the state of Arkansas, there’s little the federal government can do to stop their sale. For this reason, Arkansasans can not only purchase CBD oil, but also products such as CBD-infused edibles and beverages, CBD skin and pain creams, CBD vape oils, and so on.
Although there is no age requirement for purchasing hemp CBD products, some online shops, and local stores will not sell these products to minors. Now let’s look at the state’s marijuana laws as they pertain to CBD-rich cannabis oils.
To learn more about Arkansas CBD oil laws check out this article.
Do You Really Need The THC? Or Will CBD Do The Trick?
Some of you might be thinking to yourself, “do I really need to go through all the hassle and pay all the fees when I can just go to my local dealer?” Perhaps you’d like to avoid being high all day, or you’d rather not risk a DUI conviction.
If you have a medical marijuana card, you have your choice of cannabis oils containing THC or hemp CBD oils which are essentially devoid of THC. Both can be purchased at medical marijuana dispensaries where you can rest assured the products have been tested for toxins.
The truth is that cannabis works differently for each individual. Some patients do just fine without the THC, while others claim that hemp-derived CBD oils without THC don’t work for them at all. And the fact of the matter is that there are instances where THC can make matters worse. For example, one of the most common reasons that people use CBD oil is to reduce stress and anxiety. However, above certain levels, THC can actually increase anxiety and cause feelings of paranoia.
Many medical marijuana experts and patients insist that medical issues such as seizures and muscle spasms seem to respond better to cannabis oils when there is some THC. However, as evidence that CBD alone can be effective, the FDA recently approved a drug called Epidiolex for treating seizures which is essentially pure CBD. In order to get this approval, the drug had to undergo multiple clinical trials in order to prove that the drug is safe and that it actually works.
Another consideration is whether to use full-spectrum oils or CBD-infused oils.
CBD oil is made by extracting the essential oils from the resinous buds of the hemp plant. This raw hemp extract contains not only cannabinoids but also compounds known as terpenes. Terpenes, although they don’t cause a high, are actually far more potent than cannabinoids in terms of other effects.
Terpenes are the compounds responsible for the distinctive aroma of cannabis. While cannabinoid levels are measured in percentage of dry weight, terpenes are measured in parts per million. Terpenes have a much wider range of medicinal effects than cannabinoids and have been used in a healing modality known as aromatherapy for centuries.
Many CBD oil products contain a complete spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes found in the original plant. Hence the term full-spectrum oil.
Cannabis extracts can also be refined to the point of producing pure cannabinoids which are flavorless and odorless. They can then be infused into things like CBD vape oils or CBD edibles or beverages, CBD skin creams. These CBD-infused products do not contain terpenes and are therefore not considered full-spectrum oils.
If the ingredients say “hemp CBD oil,” then it’s likely to be full-spectrum oil. If the ingredients only list CBD then it’s likely to be an infused product.
As a result of the varying amounts of terpenes in different strains of marijuana, the effects of each strain are unique. While some will make you more relaxed, others can make you more alert. Some are great for helping to reduce pain, others are excellent choices to reduce seizures. And so on.
Arkansas Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Those Arkansas residents who have been issued a medical marijuana card can purchase their medicine at an Arkansas state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary. You can also purchase hemp-derived CBD oil at your local Arkansas marijuana dispensary.
- Arkansas Department of Health – Medical Marijuana FAQ’S
- Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
- MJ Biz Daily – After long wait, medical cannabis sales to begin in Arkansas in less than a month
- Arkansas Online – Arkansas to renew cards for cannabis patients
- 10th Amendment Center – Signed by the Governor: Arkansas Decriminalizes CBD Despite Ongoing Federal Prohibition
- Marijuana Policy Project: Medical marijuana program finally taking shape
- Vote Hemp – Rules Ok’d For Hemp Crops In Arkansas