Cannabis in Arkansas was outlawed in 1923,[1] and possession of small amounts remains a misdemeanor crime. Medical use is legal per a ballot initiative passed in 2016, however.


Marijuana was criminalized in Arkansas in 1923; New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington also banned cannabis in that year.[2]

Legal penalties[edit]

The possession of under four ounces (110 g) of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor under state law, carrying a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one years' imprisonment. For those with two existing convictions for possession, a third offense or above is treated as a Class D felony, and carries a punishment of a maximum of six years' imprisonment and a maximum $6,000 fine.[3]


Failed medical cannabis initiative (2012)[edit]

In 2012 the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (Issue 5) was put up for vote on the statewide ballot. The act would have allowed non-profit organizations to grow and sell medical cannabis and additionally permitted patients who live over five miles (8 km) from a legal dispensary to cultivate a small number of plants on their own property.[4][5] The act was defeated by a vote of 48.6% to 51.4%.[6]

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (2016)[edit]

On November 8, 2016, Arkansas voters approved Issue 6 to legalize the medical use of cannabis.[7][8] The initiative passed by a vote of 53%–47% as an amendment to the state constitution.[9] It allows patients who obtain a doctor's recommendation to possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 g) of cannabis for the treatment of any of 12 qualifying medical conditions.[9] It also requires that between 20 and 40 cannabis dispensaries and 4 to 8 cultivators be licensed by the state.[10] No allowance was made for patients to cultivate at home.[11]

Licensed sales did not begin until May 2019 when the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs.[12] The dispensary was one of 32 initially licensed by the state along with 5 cultivators.[13]

Municipal reforms[edit]

In 2006, Eureka Springs residents voted 64%–36% to make enforcement of cannabis laws the lowest police priority.[14][15] Fayetteville residents approved a similar initiative in 2008 by a 62–38 margin.[16] However, a 2019 report by the Arkansas Justice Collective found that marijuana arrests actually increased by 44% in Fayetteville since the measure passed.[17]


  1. ^ Guither, Pete. "Why is Marijuana Illegal?". Drug WarRant. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  2. ^ Charles H. Whitebread (1974). The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. Lindesmith Center. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-891385-06-3.
  3. ^ "Arkansas". Marijuana Policy Project. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  4. ^ Gwynne, Kristin (August 24, 2012). "Arkansas Sends Medical Marijuana Law to the Ballot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Franco, Cheree (March 28, 2012). "The medical marijuana push in Arkansas". Arkansas Times. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  6. ^ "Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, Issue 5 (2012)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  7. ^ Cannon, Austin (November 8, 2016). "Arkansas voters pass medical marijuana amendment". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  8. ^ DeMillo, Andrew (November 9, 2016). "Arkansas voters bring medical marijuana to the Bible Belt". Associated Press. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "How Medical Cannabis Will Be Implemented in Arkansas". The Free Weekly. November 16, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  10. ^ DeMillo, Andrew (November 11, 2016). "In the weeds: Long road to medical pot's start in Arkansas". Associated Press. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  11. ^ "Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6 (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  12. ^ Grabenstein, Hannah (May 11, 2019). "Arkansas' first medical marijuana dispensary opens its doors". Associated Press. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  13. ^ Field, Hunter (February 6, 2019). "MAP: List's out on 1st 32 medical marijuana buy sites in Arkansas". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  14. ^ Smith, Phillip (November 9, 2006). "Election 2006: Local Marijuana Initiatives Win Across the Board". Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "Victory Energizes 'Pot' Law Backers". Northwest Arkansas Times. November 11, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  16. ^ "Fayetteville Lowest Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Priority Policy Ordinance (2008)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  17. ^ Ryburn, Stacy (June 28, 2019). "Report released on marijuana arrests, citations in Fayetteville". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved February 2, 2020.