Longtime marijuana advocate Melissa Fults filed a constitutional amendment petition today that, if passed, would allow adults to legally purchase marijuana for non-medical use by the end of next year.
Known as the Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment, the proposed measure would expand the number of dispensaries and cultivators in the state and allow residents to grow up to six marijuana plants of their own. The recreational marijuana amendment would increase the maximum number of dispensaries to one for every 15,000 residents and one cultivation facility for every 300,000 residents. That would set the maximum number of dispensaries at 200 and the maximum number of cultivation facilities at 10, based on the state’s population of 3,011,524 in last year’s census.
The medical marijuana amendment voters passed in 2016 allows a maximum of 40 dispensaries and eight cultivation facilities. Under Fults’ amendment, all medical marijuana dispensaries would automatically get a license to sell recreational marijuana and would be allowed to sell to both medical and non-medical customers.
The measure would eliminate the tax on medical marijuana and allow for a tax on recreational marijuana sales. Excess revenue from the program would support pre-K programs, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the state’s general fund.
Fults said she believes her amendment is a middle ground between measures that are overly restrictive and those that create an unlimited “wild, wild west” marketplace.
“It’s fair to the consumer, it’s fair to the industry and it’s fair to the state,” Fults said. “You can’t get any better than that.”
Fults’ amendment would also allow people convicted of possessing or selling 16 ounces or less of marijuana to petition a court for release from incarceration and expungement of the conviction.
“There are far too many young men, especially of color, whose lives have been destroyed over a plant,” Fults said.
Treasurer of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Fults estimated she needs to raise $1.5 to $2 million to run an effective campaign to get the necessary signatures and defend anticipated lawsuits to get the measure on the ballot.
The amendment would go into effect 30 days after passage, allowing residents to legally purchase marijuana from dispensaries for non-medical use for the first time on December 8 next year.
Other proposed amendments to open up marijuana to more customers in Arkansas have already been filed, including an Arkansas Cannabis Industry Amendment submitted in May. Another marijuana amendment has been filed by Arkansas True Grass.