A group of cannabis industry leaders and patient advocates has filed a revised proposal to amend the state constitution and allow more access to medical cannabis in Arkansas. The proposal, called the Patient Access Amendment, aims to address some of the limitations and challenges of the current medical cannabis program, which was approved by voters in 2016.
More Medical Professionals Can Prescribe Cannabis
One of the key changes in the proposal is to expand the types of medical professionals who can certify a patient for a medical cannabis card. Currently, only physicians can do so, which can be a barrier for some patients, especially those who live in rural areas where access to primary care physicians is limited. The proposal would allow pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to also prescribe medical cannabis, as well as conduct patient assessments through telemedicine.
More Conditions Can Qualify for Cannabis Treatment
Another major change in the proposal is to remove the list of 18 qualifying conditions that are currently required for a patient to be eligible for medical cannabis. These conditions include cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, the proposal would allow any medical need to qualify for cannabis treatment, as long as it is certified by a qualified health care practitioner. This would give more flexibility and autonomy to both patients and providers, and allow them to use cannabis for a wider range of conditions and symptoms.
More Options for Patients to Access Cannabis
The proposal also includes several provisions that would make it easier and more affordable for patients to access medical cannabis. For instance, the proposal would eliminate the registration fee for a medical cannabis card, which is currently $50, and extend the validity of the card from one year to three years. The proposal would also allow qualified patients to grow up to seven mature plants and seven immature plants at home, subject to some rules and regulations by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division. The current program does not allow any home cultivation. Additionally, the proposal would allow out-of-state cardholders to visit Arkansas dispensaries without applying for a temporary card, and vice versa. This would increase the mobility and convenience for patients who travel across state lines.
A Trigger Law for Recreational Cannabis
The proposal also contains a trigger law that would automatically legalize recreational cannabis in Arkansas if it becomes federally legal. This means that adults over 21 years old would be able to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to four plants at home, without needing a medical card or a prescription. The trigger law would also allow the state to regulate and tax the recreational cannabis market, and use the revenue for various public purposes.
Next Steps for the Proposal
The proposal, which was resubmitted on February 5th, 2024, after being rejected by the attorney general in late January 2024 due to some formatting and wording issues, is awaiting approval from the attorney general’s office. If approved, the group behind the proposal, called Arkansans for Patient Access, will need to collect at least 90,000 signatures from registered voters by July 5th, 2024, to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. The group is confident that they have enough support from the public and the industry to make it happen.