Former Arkansas Lawmaker Launches Cannabis Legalization Campaign

A group headed by a former Arkansas lawmaker has joined the charge to reform cannabis policy in the state by organizing a group to campaign for a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana. Eddie Armstrong, a former Democratic state representative from North Little Rock, is listed as the chair of the organization Responsible Growth Arkansas in a filing with the Arkansas Ethics Commission submitted on October 15.

The text of the proposed constitutional amendment had not yet been filed with the office of the Arkansas Secretary of State as of the beginning of the week. The group’s statement of organization, however, notes that the organization will “advocate for the passage of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to allow the regulated sale of adult-use cannabis in the state,” according to media reports. 

In an email to reporters, Armstrong wrote that more details of the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis will be released in the upcoming weeks.

Armstrong is a former minority leader of the Arkansas State House of Representatives, where he served as a legislator from 2013 to 2019. He is also a founder of Cannabis Capital Corp., a Chicago-based consulting firm serving the medical marijuana industry, according to a 2019 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Medical Marijuana Legalized in 2016

Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016 with the passage of Issue 6, a constitutional amendment ballot measure that received 53 percent of the vote. Under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, patients can receive a doctor’s recommendation to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for the treatment of one or more qualifying medical conditions.

Medical marijuana dispensaries began serving patients in 2019. However, statutory limits on the number of cannabis cultivators and retailers could soon leave patients with an inadequate supply of medicine, says medical marijuana advocate Melissa Fults.

“There can only be a maximum of 40 dispensaries and that is not enough to cover the state of Arkansas,” said Fults. “They kept spouting that it was only going to 30,000 patients. We’re about to hit 80,000.”

Separate Cannabis Legalization Amendment Also Proposed

Responsible Growth Arkansas is not the only organization campaigning to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. Under a separate ballot measure from Arkansas True Grass known as the Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022, cannabis would be legalized for adults ages 21 and older, including provisions to cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants at home. The measure would also release nonviolent marijuana offenders from incarceration, probation and parole and expunge records of past marijuana convictions. 

The proposed constitutional amendment would also establish a regulatory structure for the production and sale of recreational marijuana. Sales of adult-use cannabis would be subject to an eight percent marijuana excise tax in addition to the state sales tax. Local jurisdictions would also be permitted to levy a five percent tax on recreational marijuana sales.

Jesse Raphael, a spokesperson for Arkansas True Grass, said that the adult-use cannabis measure would also support the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Medicine in Arkansas is very good but very expensive for the patients. We’d like to see that changed with patients also able to grow their own,” Raphael told local media earlier this month.

For either cannabis legalization measure to qualify for the ballot under state law, supporters must collect at least 89,151 signatures of registered voters, a figure equal to 10 percent of the ballots cast for governor in the 2018 general election. Under legislation signed into law this year, canvassers collecting signatures for proposed ballot measures must be residents of Arkansas and may not be paid on a per-signature basis. The deadline for gathering signatures is July 8, 2022.

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Federal Grant Approved to Study Medical Marijuana Impact in Arkansas

A federal grant will help fund a study on the medical cannabis program in Arkansas. 

Thanks to $1.3 million courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, researchers affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Center for Health Improvement will conduct what is being described as “a first-of-its-kind population health analysis of the medical marijuana program, combining eligible consumers’ cannabis purchase information with insurance claims records and other data sources to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of cannabis on consumers’ medical care.”

The study, titled “Population-Based Analyses of Healthcare Utilization and Outcomes in Users of Medical Marijuana,” will “also examine the impact of COVID-19 on the Arkansas medical marijuana program, including changes in cardholder requests, product purchases, healthcare utilization and adverse events,” according to a press release from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, which is “a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy and collaborative program development.”

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for not only our state, but also the country, to investigate the effectiveness of cannabis for therapeutic use,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, co-principal investigator on this study, and the president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. “While researchers have gathered scientific evidence on the use of cannabis for the alleviation of symptoms such as pain and anxiety, there is little evidence on how the amount, strain, potency and method of use affect a person’s health experience.”

Additionally, the study will also “incorporate six Arkansas-based data sources, including the Arkansas Healthcare Transparency Initiative’s Arkansas All-Payer Claims Database (APCD), Arkansas Department of Health medical marijuana patient registry data, medical marijuana dispensary purchase data, vital records, emergency department records and Arkansas State Police motor vehicle crash data,” with all the data being “de-identified with linkages utilizing the unique capabilities of the Transparency Initiative.”

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said that by “examining data for Arkansans who have qualified for medicinal use, this research will help inform the potential role of cannabis in medical therapy.”

Voters in Arkansas approved a ballot measure legalizing medical cannabis in 2016. The state’s first dispensaries opened in 2019.

In December, state officials reported that patients in Arkansas had purchased $200.7 million and 30,648 pounds of medical marijuana.

That milestone represented a massive spike since April of last year, when the state reported $63 million and 10,050 pounds worth of medical cannabis sales, in the program’s first 11 months of existence. A month before that, the program passed the $50 million mark.

Arkansas is now one of nearly 40 states to have legalized medical cannabis as a treatment. According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, as of this month, there are “more than 79,000 active Arkansas medical marijuana ID card holders who have one or more of the 18 approved medical conditions.” 

The state also boasts a little more than 30 licensed dispensaries and a total of five cultivators. 

According to the state’s Department of Health, patients with the following qualifying conditions are eligible for a medical cannabis prescription: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, intractable pain or pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months, severe nausea, seizures including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy, severe and persistent muscle spasms including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health is also eligible.

The post Federal Grant Approved to Study Medical Marijuana Impact in Arkansas appeared first on High Times.

Most Popular Medical Marijuana Strains in Arkansas

Most often, newsworthy strains are those bred and sold on America’s West Coast — the epicenter of cannabis culture and creation. However, just because strains like GG#4 and Dutch Treat reign supreme on the coast doesn’t mean that the rest of the country is so enamoured with these varieties. Cannabis commerce laws being what they […]

The post Most Popular Medical Marijuana Strains in Arkansas appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.

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