Group submits proposal for changes to medical marijuana amendment

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 590 views 

A ballot committee, Arkansans for Patient Access, submitted a proposed ballot initiative Friday (Jan. 12) to make changes to Amendment 98, the state’s medical marijuana amendment.

The group said the changes will make improvements in Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana program, which was created by voter passage of Amendment 98 in 2016.

“The goal of this ballot proposal is to reaffirm and build upon Amendment 98 to better serve patients,” said Amy Martin, owner of The Greenery dispensary in Fort Smith. “This amendment reflects a commitment to the principles established by the state’s voters. It reduces barriers and streamlines processes so qualifying patients can access the medicines and treatment options that best serve them.”

The proposed amendment, which has been submitted to the Attorney General for ballot title review, is called the 2024 Patient Access Amendment. It includes changes to definitions, eligibility criteria, and regulations, including:

  • Replacing the definition of “physician” with “health care practitioner,” which includes medical and osteopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and pharmacists;
  • Removing language requiring a physician-patient relationship from the definition of “written certification” and to allow assessments in person or by telemedicine;
  • Extending the expiration date of medical marijuana registry identification cards from one to three years and to add two additional years to the expiration of date of existing cards;
  • Removing requirements for a “qualifying medical condition” and to add language defining such a condition as including any condition not otherwise specified in Amendment 98 that a health care practitioner considers debilitating to a patient that might be alleviated by medical marijuana; and
  • Allowing qualifying patients or caregivers at least 21 years old to keep and to plant marijuana plants in limited quantities and sizes at their domicile solely for the personal use of a qualifying patient. It prohibits the sale, bartering, and trade of such marijuana plants, and the Alcohol Beverage Control Division would regulate this qualification.

“The passage of this amendment is a step toward creating a more compassionate and patient-focused healthcare system in Arkansas,” Martin said.

You can read the amendment proposal at this link.

The constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions and creating a state medical marijuana commission was approved by Arkansas voters 53% (585,030) to 47% (516,525) in November 2016.

Arkansas medical marijuana sales set a new record in 2023 with a 2.53% increase over 2022, and the number of Arkansans with active marijuana patient cards rose 8.4% in 2023, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).