Arkansas has a history with some of the harshest marijuana laws that date back to 1923 when the state banned all forms of marijuana. This prohibition was caused by a nationwide fear of the psychoactive effects of marijuana, seen from a number of Mexicans who first introduced the drug into parts of the United States. For different reasons now, Arkansas still has some of these harsh marijuana laws, despite increasing interest around the country and state to improve such laws.
Even though many favor legalization in the state, Arkansas lawmakers show little interest in changing the state’s dated marijuana laws. Possession of marijuana is still considered a misdemeanor with charges facing up to a year in jail, which becomes even more harsh if convicted twice, because offenders face a felony punishable by up to six years. In 2012, the state made thousands of marijuana arrests, 90% of which were for possession. Arkansas has certainly been focusing on victimless marijuana offenses since it first banned the drug in 1923, though the state has allowed medical marijuana since 2016. Voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, which allows ill patients to use and safely obtain medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. Now, the state legislature is implementing changes to the medical marijuana laws to improve the program.