Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Cannabis in Arkansas is illegal for recreational use. First-time possession of up to four ounces (110 g) is punished with a fine of up to $2,500, imprisonment of up to a year, and a mandatory six month driver's license suspension. Medical use was legalized in 2016 by way of a ballot measure to amend the state constitution.


Cannabis was criminalized in Arkansas in 1923; New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington also banned cannabis in that year.[1][2]

Legal penalties[edit]

The possession of under four ounces (110 g) of cannabis is a Class A misdemeanor under state law, carrying a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year imprisonment. For those with two existing convictions, possession of over one ounce (28 g) is a Class D felony punishable by a fine of up to $6,000 and a maximum six years in prison.[3]

As Arkansas is a "Smoke a joint, lose your license" state,[4] any conviction for a cannabis offense is punished with a mandatory six month driver's license suspension.[5]


Failed medical cannabis initiative (2012)[edit]

In 2012, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (Issue 5) qualified 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 from a legal dispensary to cultivate a small number of plants on their own property.[6][7] The act was defeated by a vote of 48.6% to 51.4%.[8]

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (2016)[edit]

On November 8, 2016, Arkansas voters approved Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment,[9] to legalize the medical use of cannabis.[10][11] A separate measure, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (Issue 7),[12] was disqualified from the ballot 12 days before the election by the Arkansas Supreme Court.[13][14]

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment passed by a vote of 53%–47% as an amendment to the state constitution.[15] It allows patients who obtain a doctor's recommendation to possess up to 2+12 ounces (71 g) of cannabis for the treatment of any of 12 qualifying medical conditions.[15] It also requires that between 20 and 40 cannabis dispensaries and 4 to 8 cultivators be licensed by the state.[16] No allowance was made for patients to cultivate at home.[9]

Licensed sales did not begin until May 2019 when the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs.[17] The dispensary was one of 32 initially licensed by the state along with 5 cultivators.[18]

Municipal reforms[edit]

In 2006, Eureka Springs residents voted 64%–36% to make enforcement of cannabis laws the lowest police priority.[19][20] Fayetteville residents approved a similar initiative in 2008 by a 62%–38% margin.[21] However, a 2019 report by the Arkansas Justice Collective found that cannabis arrests actually increased by 44% in Fayetteville since the measure passed.[22]

In 2021, the Little Rock Board of Directors voted 7–3 to require that "investigations, citations, arrests, property seizures, etc. for adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses" be made the lowest law enforcement and prosecutorial priority when the amount of cannabis is deemed to be for personal use.[23][24]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Guither, Pete. "Why is Marijuana Illegal?". Drug WarRant. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  3. ^ "Arkansas". Marijuana Policy Project. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  4. ^ Aiken, Joshua (December 12, 2016), Reinstating Common Sense: How driver's license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to driving are falling out of favor, Prison Policy Initiative, retrieved September 23, 2020
  5. ^ "Arkansas Laws and Penalties". NORML. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Gwynne, Kristin (August 24, 2012). "Arkansas Sends Medical Marijuana Law to the Ballot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  7. ^ Franco, Cheree (March 28, 2012). "The medical marijuana push in Arkansas". Arkansas Times. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  8. ^ "Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, Issue 5 (2012)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6 (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Cannon, Austin (November 8, 2016). "Arkansas voters pass medical marijuana amendment". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  11. ^ DeMillo, Andrew (November 9, 2016). "Arkansas voters bring medical marijuana to the Bible Belt". Associated Press. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  12. ^ "Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  13. ^ Pettit, Emma (October 27, 2016). "Arkansas court disqualifies one medical marijuana proposal". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  14. ^ Fanney, Brian (October 28, 2016). "Court strikes medical marijuana initiated act; Issue 7 votes won't count, but those on rival Issue 6 will". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  15. ^ a b "How Medical Cannabis Will Be Implemented in Arkansas". The Free Weekly. November 16, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  16. ^ DeMillo, Andrew (November 11, 2016). "In the weeds: Long road to medical pot's start in Arkansas". Associated Press. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  17. ^ Grabenstein, Hannah (May 11, 2019). "Arkansas' first medical marijuana dispensary opens its doors". Associated Press. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Smith, Phillip (November 9, 2006). "Election 2006: Local Marijuana Initiatives Win Across the Board". Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  20. ^ "Victory Energizes 'Pot' Law Backers". Northwest Arkansas Times. November 11, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  21. ^ "Fayetteville Lowest Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Priority Policy Ordinance (2008)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  22. ^ Ryburn, Stacy (June 28, 2019). "Report released on marijuana arrests, citations in Fayetteville". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  23. ^ Kellogg, Sarah (May 19, 2021). "City Board Of Directors Passes Ordinance De-Prioritizing Marijuana Offenses For Law Enforcement". KUAR. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  24. ^ Flaherty, Joseph (May 19, 2021). "Little Rock board approves ordinance classifying misdemeanor pot offenses as lowest priority for police". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved May 19, 2021.