Cannabis in Arkansas is legal for medical use and 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 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 years' 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) 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 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]


  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. 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. 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.