Arkansas AG Rejects Ballot Initiative To Allow Medical Marijuana Homegrow And Trigger Recreational Legalization After Federal Reform

Arkansans for Patient Access—the ballot question committee behind the cannabis amendment—can amend its proposal and again seek the attorney general’s approval.

By Hunter Field, Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas’s attorney general on Monday rejected language for a ballot initiative meant to improve access for medical marijuana patients and trigger the legalization of recreational use if the drug becomes federally legal.

Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) determined the ballot title for the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 was insufficient due to improper formatting of the proposed constitutional amendment and ambiguities about how the measure would affect existing state laws and rules.

Those who drafted the amendment plan to make revisions and resubmit it.

The medical marijuana industry-backed initiative would make it legal for patients to grow their own cannabis at home and make a series of changes to Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution, which Arkansans ratified in 2016 to legalize marijuana for medical use.

The major changes being proposed are:

Allowing patients and designated caregivers over age 21 to grow up to seven mature plants and seven younger marijuana plants.
Expanding who can certify patients for medical marijuana cards from only doctors to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
Permitting providers to qualify patients based on any medical need rather than the state’s current 18 qualifying conditions.
Allowing health care providers to conduct patient assessments via telemedicine.
Expanding access to out-of-state residents by recognizing patient cards from other states or allowing nonresidents to obtain Arkansas patient cards.
Abolishing application fees for patients seeking registry ID cards.
Increasing the expiration date for new patient cards from one year to three years.

The proposal would also create a recreational cannabis trigger law, permitting adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis if the federal government removes marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances or if marijuana possession is no longer a federal crime.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is currently considering a proposal from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III.

Schedule III drugs are substances like anabolic steroids and ketamine that have “a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” and have medical applications, according to the DEA

Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” per the DEA.

Problems with the language

Griffin noted several formatting deficiencies that backers of the amendment should be able to resolve easily.

He also said that a section of the proposal that aims to limit how the state can regulate marijuana business advertising wasn’t clear about what set of state rules were being referenced.

Like several other unrelated ballot initiatives that have seen their language rejected by Griffin this election cycle, Monday’s opinion also took issue with the drafters’ failure to define several terms, including some that were taken from elsewhere in state law.

Lastly, Griffin opined that the section of the measure intended to prevent the General Assembly from tweaking the amendment, if passed, was unclear.

Ballot groups have until July 5 to gather 90,704 signatures from registered voters to qualify for ballot access, but canvassing can’t begin until the ballot title and popular name are approved by Griffin.

Arkansans for Patient Access—the ballot question committee behind the cannabis amendment—can amend its proposal and again seek Griffin’s approval, or the group could ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to intervene and certify the measure.

“Arkansans for Patient Access is reviewing Attorney General Tim Griffin’s ballot proposal opinion. We intend to address the issues raised and resubmit,” said Erika Gee, an attorney for the group. “We are confident ballot language will be presented that ultimately gains approval.”

This story was first published by Arkansas Advocate.

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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