arkansas medical cannabis act qualifying conditions

AR Marijuana Qualification

Updated on June 15, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Qualification

Patients in Arkansas diagnosed with one or more of the following “debilitating medical conditions”, are afforded legal protection under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment:

  • AIDS (Positive Status)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Intractable Pain (Pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six (6) months)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • HIV (Positive Status)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Seizures (Including Epilepsy)
  • Severe and persistent Muscle Spasms including without limitation those characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis
  • Severe Arthritis
  • Severe Nausea
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

and any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program: Information

  1. To qualify for Medical Marijuana in Arkansas, patients must be eighteen (18) years of age or older. If under eighteen (18) years of age, the minor patient must have parental consent.
  2. Patients must be a resident of Arkansas and provide proof of residency through a valid Driver’s License or valid State Identification Card.
  3. Patients must be diagnosed with a Qualifying Condition (listed above).
  4. Patients must have an official written Certification from the qualified physician.
  5. Patients must then submit an application for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (Medical Marijuana Card). Patients can submit applications online here or mail the application to Arkansas Department Of Health Medical Marijuana Section 4815 West Markham Slot 50 Little Rock, AR 72205
    • The Application Fee is $50.00 and Non-Refundable.
  6. If the application is approved, the state will notify the approved patient and mail the Identification Card to the address listed in the application.
  7. State Law prohibits members of Arkansas National Guard & United States Military from obtaining a registry ID card.

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How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient in Arkansas

1. Patients must be at least 18 years of age.

2. Patients must be a legal Arkansas Resident with a valid Arkansas I.D. as proof of residency. If you do not have an Arkansas I.D. an out of state I.D., passport, or other photo I.D. with proof of residency such as bank statement, utility bill, etc. is acceptable.

3. Patients must obtain legitimate medical records or documentation from your primary care physician describing their diagnosis and bring these records with you to your marijuana evaluation appointment – *Learn how to request your medical records

4. The qualifying patient must have been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition – *Find a certified medical marijuana physician in Arkansas

5. All patients will be required to register with the Department of Health, details will be provided once the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program has been fully implemented by the DOH.

6. * Please note: It will take several months for the DOH to prepare the AMMP for operation, however, patients may begin the process by establishing a bonafide doctor-patient relationship with a licensed marijuana doctor now, in efforts to allow patients early access to the medicine once it becomes available.

Arkansas Department of Health
*4815 W. Markham St., Slot 50
Little Rock, AR 72205
Phone: 1-833-214-8619
Email: [email protected], [email protected]
Website: Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program

Medical Marijuana Access in Arkansas

Some medical marijuana patients will claim they have a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana, but marijuana prescriptions are in fact illegal. The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug. Therefore doctors are unable to prescribe marijuana to their patients, and medical marijuana patients cannot go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana. Instead, medical marijuana physicians will supply patients with a medical marijuana recommendation in compliance with state law.

Arkansas possession regulations allow patients to possess no more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana in a 14-day period.

While Arkansas is more progressive than most Southern states in allowing the possession of weed for medical purposes, advocates were discouraged in April 2017 due to the passing of a bill that would implement further taxes on medical cannabis, impacting Arkansas medical marijuana qualifications. Supporters of the bill said the additional money would be needed in order to implement the medical marijuana program, while critics argued it would only serve to make it more costly for patients to access cannabis.

It is estimated the bill, which would impose an additional tax of 4 percent, would raise the total amount of taxes levied on medical cannabis to 25 percent for patients. The bill was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017, the same day the state will start to accept applications from companies wanting to establish both dispensaries as well as cultivation facilities.

Another development that concerned medical marijuana qualifications in Arkansas concerned the process for awarding licenses to cannabis-related businesses. In November 2016, voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, which not only legalized medical weed but also allowed for the opening of as many as eight cultivation facilities as well as up to 40 dispensaries.

Many critics of the rules note dispensary applicants have to enter a lottery in order to present their business plans to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. In addition, critics are concerned dispensary applicants who wish to also cultivate plants must pay a $25,000 fee. Dispensaries that do not cultivate weed must only pay a $2,500 fee.

As a result, critics say access to cannabis would be limited. They believe the fee would make it hard for patients suffering from certain conditions to purchase specific strains they may need in order to alleviate their symptoms.

Go to our section on obtaining a medical marijuana card in Arkansas for more information on how to access medicinal cannabis in the state.

Learn more about qualifying for medical marijuana in Arkansas. Get info on qualifying conditions and find local doctors at Marijuana Doctors.

Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 (2016)

Arkansas Issue 7
Election date
November 8, 2016
Not on the ballot
State statute


  • 1 Overview
    • 1.1 Status of medical marijuana in Arkansas
    • 1.2 Initiative design
    • 1.3 State of ballot measure campaigns
  • 2 Issue 6 vs. Issue 7
    • 2.1 Why two measures?
    • 2.2 Comparison of provisions
    • 2.3 Qualifying conditions
  • 3 Text of measure
    • 3.1 Popular name
    • 3.2 Ballot title
    • 3.3 Full text
  • 4 Support
    • 4.1 Supporters
    • 4.2 Arguments
  • 5 Opposition
    • 5.1 Opponents
      • 5.1.1 Officials
      • 5.1.2 Organizations
      • 5.1.3 Individuals
    • 5.2 Arguments
  • 6 Other positions
  • 7 Campaign finance
    • 7.1 Support
      • 7.1.1 Cash donations
      • 7.1.2 In-kind donations
      • 7.1.3 Top donors
    • 7.2 Opposition
      • 7.2.1 Cash donations
      • 7.2.2 Top donors
    • 7.3 Methodology
  • 8 Polls
  • 9 Background
    • 9.1 Issue 5 (2012)
    • 9.2 Medical marijuana
      • 9.2.1 Unique instances
  • 10 Path to the ballot
    • 10.1 Lawsuits
      • 10.1.1 Conway v. Martin
      • 10.1.2 Benca v. Martin
  • 11 Related measures
  • 12 State profile
    • 12.1 Presidential voting pattern
      • 12.1.1 Pivot Counties (2016)
  • 13 Recent news
  • 14 See also
  • 15 External links
    • 15.1 Basic information
    • 15.2 Support
    • 15.3 Opposition
  • 16 Footnotes

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Issue 7, was not on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Arkansas as an initiated state statute. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot in Benca v. Martin on October 27, 2016, on the basis of invalid signatures. [1] The measure appeared on the ballot, but results were not counted.

A “yes” vote would have supported legalizing medical marijuana for 56 qualifying conditions, putting the Arkansas Department of Health in charge of implementing the program, and allocating tax revenue to providing low-income patients with medical marijuana.
A “no” vote would have opposed this proposal to legalize medical marijuana. [2]
An initiated constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, titled Issue 6, was also on the November 8 ballot in Arkansas. Compare the provisions of Issue 7 with Issue 6 by clicking here.


Status of medical marijuana in Arkansas

In 2016, the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes was illegal in Arkansas. Voters narrowly defeated an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in 2012. Medical marijuana was legal in 25 states, and cannabis oil was legal in an additional 15, in 2016. While marijuana was still illegal at the federal level in 2016, enforcement of federal marijuana laws was often not strict against state-legal medical marijuana. In December 2014, the U.S. Congress passed a law that prohibited federal agents from raiding medical marijuana growers in states where medical marijuana is legal, effectively allowing states to legalize medical marijuana. [3]

Initiative design

Issue 7 would have legalized marijuana for medical use in Arkansas. The measure would have allowed for the establishment and regulation of not-for-profit marijuana dispensaries. Labs would have tested marijuana quality. State and local sales taxes would have been applied to medical marijuana. Revenue from these taxes would have been allocated to providing low-income patients with medical marijuana. Patients who lived more than 20 miles from the nearest dispensary would have been permitted to grow marijuana for personal use. The Arkansas Department of Health would have oversaw the medical marijuana program. [4]

State of ballot measure campaigns

Supporters, organized as Arkansans for Compassionate Care, outraised opponents three-to-one. As of October 22, 2016, supporters had received about $163,251, while opponents had received $58,825. Polls indicated dwindling support for the measure, with the most recent showing 40 percent favoring and 53 opposing Issue 7. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) opposed the measure.

Issue 7 was a competing measure with Issue 6 until the Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot.

Issue 6 vs. Issue 7

Issue 6 and Issue 7 were competing measures until the Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot on October 27, 2016. [1]

Issue 6 was an initiated constitutional amendment known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. As the measure was an amendment, it prohibited the Arkansas Legislature from making marijuana illegal again without voter approval. Issue 6 was approved.

Issue 7 was an initiated state statute known as the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. As the measure was a statute, the Arkansas Legislature would have been permitted to make medical marijuana illegal again with a two-thirds supermajority vote in each legislative chamber. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot.

Why two measures?

Prior to the October 27, 2016, Arkansas Supreme Court ruling in Benca v. Martin that struck Issue 7 from the ballot, there were two initiatives designed to legalize medical marijuana on the Arkansas ballot. While there were a number of differences between the two, one difference in particular led measure sponsors to propose separate initiatives. This difference was what is called a “grow-your-own” provision. Issue 7 would have allowed some patients to grow marijuana at home for medical use. Issue 6 did not. David Couch, sponsor of Issue 6, worked for Issue 7’s sponsor, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, in 2012, when the group’s Issue 5 was defeated. Couch believed a major reason for the 2012 initiative’s defeat was its “grow-your-own” provision.

Melissa Fults, director of Arkansas for Compassionate Care, asked Couch to drop his initiative. She pleaded, “Please do not place thousands of sick and dying Arkansans’ future in jeopardy. Patients need safe and legal access to cannabis and if you continue we risk losing the best chance that we’ve ever had. Placing two initiatives on the ballot will cause both to fail.” [5]

Comparison of provisions

The following table compares the different provisions of Issue 6 and Issue 7. Some rows of this table are adapted and modified from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issues Guide. [6]

Issue Issue 6
Medical Marijuana Amendment
Issue 7
Medical Cannabis Act
Changes to law Adds an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Adds a Chapter 65 to Arkansas Code Title 20
Provisions regarding patients and patient use
Qualifying conditions 17 qualifying patient conditions 56 qualifying patient conditions
Patient identification card fee Application and renewal fees set by the Department of Health Fees may not exceed $50 per year, and a sliding scale must be created
Grow-your-own provision Does not authorize patients to grow marijuana Authorizes patients who live more than 20 miles from a dispensary to grow marijuana
Amount distributed Dispensaries can distribute up to 2.5 ounces per patient every 14 days Dispensaries can distribute up to 2.5 ounces per patient every 15 days
Patient choice of dispensary Patient can purchase at any dispensary Patient can purchase at a designated dispensary
College campuses Prohibits use on college campuses Does not prohibit use on college campuses
Provisions concerning government
Revenue allocation Revenue allocated to cover administration costs and, of the remaining revenue, 50 percent to the Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund, 30 percent to the General Fund, 10 percent to the workforce training programs, 5 percent to the Department of Health, 4 percent to Alcoholic Beverage Control administrative and enforcement divisions, and 1 percent to the Medical Marijuana Commission Revenue allocated to cover administration costs and, of the remaining revenue, provide medical cannabis to low-income qualifying patients
Regulating agency for patients The Arkansas Department of Health The Arkansas Department of Health
Regulating agency for dispensaries A new Medical Marijuana Commission and the Alcohol Beverage Control The Arkansas Department of Health
Local prohibition Voters can prohibit dispensaries and facilities in local communities No provision for local prohibition
Provisions regarding dispensaries and cultivation facilities
Number of dispensaries Between 20 and 40 in the state, but no more than four in any one county One dispensary for every 20 pharmacies; About 39 dispensaries at time of implementation
Dispensary nonprofit requirement No requirements for dispensaries to be nonprofits Requirement for dispensaries to operate on a not-for-profit basis
Testing labs Does not require marijuana testing labs Requires labs to test for quality
Residency requirements for dispensaries and facilities Owners must be Arkansas residents No residency requirement
Disqualification from marijuana work Any felony conviction related to violence or violation of controlled substance law within past 10 years Any felony conviction
Background checks for marijuana workers Optional Required
Dispensary advertisement restrictions Department of Health can regulate advertisements No regulation of advertisements

Qualifying conditions

The following specific qualifying diseases and medical conditions would have been covered under Issue 6 and Issue 7: [7] [2]

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Arthritis [8]
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Positive Status for HIV and/or AIDS
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces Wasting Syndrome or cachexia
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces peripheral neuropathy
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces intractable pain
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces severe nausea
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces seizures
  • Chronic or debilitating disease that produces severe and persistent muscle spasms
  • Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Arkansas Department of Health

The following specific qualifying diseases and medical conditions would have been covered under Issue 7 but not Issue 6: [2]

  • Adiposis Dolorosa (Dercum’s Disease)
  • Anorexia
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation
  • Asthma
  • Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Bulimia
  • Causalgia
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Chronic Insomnia
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)—Types I and II
  • Dystonia
  • Emphysema
  • Fibrous Dysplasia
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hydromyelia
  • Interstitial Cystitis
  • Lupus
  • Migraines
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Myoclonus
  • Nail-Patella Syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Posterior Lateral Sclerosis(PLS)
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
  • Residual Limb and Phantom Pain
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA)
  • Spinal Cord Injury and/or disease (including but not limited to Arachnoiditis)
  • Syringomelia
  • Tarlov Cysts
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Text of measure

Popular name

The popular name given for Issue 7 was as follows: [4]

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act [9]

Ballot title

The ballot title was as follows: [4]

An act making the medical use of cannabis, commonly called marijuana, legal under Arkansas state law, but acknowledging that cannabis use, possession, and distribution for any purpose remain illegal under federal law; establishing a system for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis for qualifying patients through nonprofit cannabis care centers and for the testing for quality, safety, and potency of cannabis through cannabis testing labs; granting nonprofit cannabis care centers and cannabis testing labs limited immunity; allowing localities to limit the number of nonprofit cannabis care centers and to enact zoning regulations governing their operations; providing that qualifying patients, their designated caregivers, cannabis testing lab agents, and nonprofit cannabis care center agents shall not be subject to criminal or civil penalties or other forms of discrimination for engaging in or assisting with qualifying patients’ medical use of cannabis or for testing and labeling cannabis; allowing limited cultivation of cannabis by qualifying patients and designated caregivers if the qualifying patient lives more than twenty (20) miles from a nonprofit cannabis care center and obtains a hardship cultivation certificate from the Department of Health; allowing compensation for designated caregivers; requiring that in order to become a qualifying patient, a person submit to the state a written certification from a physician that he or she is suffering from a qualifying medical condition; establishing an initial list of qualifying medical conditions; directing the Department of Health to establish rules related to the processing of applications for registry identification cards and hardship cultivation certificates, the operations of nonprofit cannabis care centers and cannabis testing labs, and the addition of qualifying medical conditions if such additions will enable patients to derive therapeutic benefit from the medical use of cannabis; setting maximum application and renewal fees for nonprofit cannabis care centers and cannabis testing labs; directing the Department of Health to establish a system to provide affordable cannabis from nonprofit cannabis care centers to low income patients; establishing qualifications for registry identification cards; establishing qualifications for hardship cultivation certificates; establishing standards to ensure that qualifying patient and designated caregiver registration information is treated as confidential; directing the Department of Health to provide the legislature annual quantitative reports about the medical cannabis program; setting certain limitations on the use of medical cannabis by qualifying patients; establishing an affirmative defense for the medical use of cannabis; establishing registration and operation requirements for nonprofit cannabis care centers and cannabis testing labs; setting limits on the number of nonprofit cannabis care centers; setting limits on the amount of cannabis a nonprofit cannabis care center may cultivate and the amount of usable cannabis a nonprofit cannabis care center may dispense to a qualifying patient; prohibiting certain conduct by and imposing certain conditions and requirements on physicians, nonprofit cannabis care centers, nonprofit cannabis care center agents, cannabis testing labs, cannabis testing lab agents, qualifying patients, and designated caregivers; prohibiting felons from serving as designated caregivers, owners, board members, or officers of nonprofit cannabis care centers or cannabis testing labs, nonprofit cannabis care center agents, or cannabis testing lab agents; allowing visiting qualifying patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions to utilize the medical cannabis program; and prohibiting special taxes on the sale of medical cannabis and directing the state sales tax revenues received from the sale of cannabis to cover the costs to the Department of Health for administering the medical cannabis program and the remainder to aid low income qualifying patients through the affordability clause. [9]

Full text

The full text of the measure can be found here.


Arkansans for Compassionate Care led the campaign in support of Issue 7. [10] The group sponsored Issue 5, which would have legalized medical marijuana, in 2012.


  • NORML[11]
  • Our Revolution[12]
  • Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders [13]


The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issue Guide summarized proponents’ arguments in five bullet points: [6]

Benjamin Hardy and David Koon of the Arkansas Times evaluated Issue 6 and Issue 7 and said the following: [14]

Between the two marijuana proposals, this one is the winner when it comes to being a patient-centered law with sick people in mind. The AMCA covers three times as many illnesses as Issue 6, including migraines, Parkinson’s disease, lupus and traumatic brain injury. Other pluses include low-income protections and the “grow your own” clause for patients far removed from dispensaries. The ability of the ledge [legislature] to more easily meddle makes us nervous, but bonus points for keeping regulation where it belongs: in the hands of the Health Department, not the Sin Cops at the ABC. [9]

Other arguments in support of the measure included:

  • Ryan Denham, Deputy Director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, argued, “Arkansas has seen states like New York and Illinois legalize . We’ve seen that the sky hasn’t fallen, terminally ill people are gaining access to medicine, and it’s generating tax revenue. Arkansas borders seven states, which have almost no cannabis laws . This is more than just a local or state issue, this is a national issue and we’re hoping that we can influence some of the more conservative states around us.” [15]


Safer Arkansas Communities, Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, and Family Council Action Committee led the campaign against Issue 6. [16] [17] [18] All three were also opposed to Issue 6.


  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) [19]
  • Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R) [20]
  • U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R)
  • Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe [13]
  • Arkansas Department of Health [21]
  • Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation [22]
  • Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
  • Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council
  • Arkansas Landlords Association [23]
  • Arkansas School Nurses Association [24]
  • Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators [25]
  • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families [26]
  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Arkansas Chapter
  • Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police [27]
  • Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association
  • FBI National Academy Associates-AR Chapter
  • Kevin Sabet, former Senior Advisor for Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton [28]


The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issue Guide summarized opponents’ arguments in five bullet points: [6]

Safer Arkansas Communities released a list of 10 reasons to vote against Issue 6 and Issue 7 on social media. The following was the list: [29]

1). Allow Kids Enticing Pot Candy: Proposals allow for marijuana infused edibles that the marijuana industry manufactures to look just like popular candy and food such as gummy bears and cotton candy. These items have led to a large spike in emergency room visits and poison control calls in other states.

2). Budtenders Not Pharmacists: Marijuana is dispensed by a budtender who has NO medical or pharmacology training that a pharmacist must obtain. Budtenders also have no knowledge of drug interactions and whether they will interfere with other medications you may be taking possibly resulting in serious side effects.

3). It’s De Facto Legalization: Both Issues 6 & 7 were written with the big marijuana industry’s bottom line in mind, not Arkansans overall health. Under them, essentially anyone could obtain a note (no prescription) for marijuana due to the long list of qualifications they allow.

4). It’s Not the Marijuana of Woodstock: Today’s marijuana is a much more potent product than what it was just 20 or 30 years ago. Back then the average psychoactive ingredient, THC, was around 2-3% whereas now it’s averaging 15-20% in the smoke-able form. There are now marijuana oils that are up to 98% pure THC being sold elsewhere that would also be marketed here.

5). No Way to Keep Pot Our of Communities: One proposal requires that marijuana dispensaries be allowed to operate wherever a pharmacy is located, even next to an ice cream store where you take your family. The other one allows jurisdictions to ban dispensaries, but then you have to allow home growing of it, potentially next door to your family.

6). The State Will Be Required to Buy People Pot: The guidelines in one of the proposals dictates that any additional funding that taxes generate be used to buy marijuana for people that can’t afford their own.

7). It will Increase the Size of State Government: The proposals will require numerous additions to state agencies in an attempt to regulate the industry. Regulations that are nearly (intentionally) impossible to enforce will further bloat government bureaucracy.

8). Bad for Business: Employees who use marijuana—even those who are under the influence on the job—would have special rights where they cannot be reprimanded or fired for using marijuana if an employer cannot prove impairment. They contain anti-discrimination language for marijuana users and employers could be required to incur expenses to provide an accommodation for workers who are marijuana users.

9). No Advertising Limits: Marijuana companies will have free reign to market their products that are geared towards enticing children and ensuring new future customers. Under the cover of a green cross and labeled as medicine, they will be able to normalize it’s use while increasing their financial gain.

10). Will Negatively Effect Our Children: No fonduing is provided to schools and will lead to less money to help our children succeed as the need for additional prevention resources will further strain limited funding. Children who use marijuana have lower academic performance and it has been shown to lower IQ’s 6-8 points, often permanently. [9]

Other arguments against the measure included:

  • Jerry Cox, Executive Director of the Family Council Action Committee, argued, “This is simply a back-door way for otherwise healthy people to be able to buy marijuana, sell marijuana, smoke marijuana, use it in food, so forth and so on.” [18]

Other positions

The Arkansas Democratic Party and Conner Eldridge (D), the party’s 2016 candidate for the U.S. Senate, both endorsed legalizing medical marijuana in August 2016. Democrats called for “the development of a responsible medical marijuana program that will receive patients in need of such relief the freedom to access this remedy.” Eldridge stated, “I see no legitimate reason to deny access to marijuana for people like my stepmother, who passed away from a recurrence of breast cancer in 2010. As a prosecutor, I believe law enforcement resources ought to be directed to far more serious offenses, including large scale drug trafficking involving methamphetamine, heroin, prescription drugs, and cocaine.” [30]

Conner Eldridge did not endorse either of the medical marijuana ballot measures. On September 23, 2016, he said: [31]

I support a responsible medical marijuana program in the state of Arkansas. As I’ve said before, at this juncture when those two competing measures are being litigated I’m not going to wade into the details of each. I’m certainly closely following that. But I support a responsible medical marijuana program and once it’s completely sorted out – what will and will not be on the ballot and where all of that stands – I’ll be happy to talk more about it. Bottom line is there’s a distinction in this race. I support responsible medical marijuana. My opponent opposes it. [9]

Campaign finance

Total campaign contributions:
Support: $163,250.97
Opposition: $58,825.29

As of October 22, 2016, the support campaign for Issue 7 featured one ballot question committee, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, that received a total of $163,250.97 in contributions. The support campaign had spent $151,591.65. [16]

As of October 22, 2016, the opposition campaign for Issue 7 featured three ballot question committees. In total, opponents raised $58,825.29. The first committee was Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, which received $48,200 in contributions. The second was the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities, which raised $6,635.29. The third was the Family Council Action Committee, which received $3,990.00 [16] The Family Council Action Committee was registered in opposition to Issue 4, Issue 5, Issue 6, and Issue 7.

According to reports through October 22, 2016, the top donors in support of this initiative, the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, provided a combined 31 percent of the campaign’s total war chest. They each contributed $25,000.00. The top donor opposing the initiative, CR Crawford Construction, provided $10,000 or 17 percent of the campaign’s funds.


Cash donations

The following ballot question committee registered to support this initiative. The chart below shows cash donations and expenditures current as of October 22, 2016. [16]

Committee Amount raised [32] Amount spent
Arkansans for Compassionate Care $163,025.97 $151,816.65
Total $163,025.97 $151,816.65
In-kind donations

As of October 22, 2016, Arkansans for Compassionate Care received in-kind donations in the amount of $225.00. The top in-kind donor, Randi Evans, provided 100 percent of all in-kind donations. [16]

Top donors

As of October 22, 2016, the following were the top five donors in support of the initiative: [16]

Donor Cash In-kind Total
Drug Policy Alliance $25,000.00 $0.00 $25,000.00
Marijuana Policy Project $25,000.00 $0.00 $25,000.00
New Approach PAC $12,500.00 $0.00 $12,500.00
Anne Holland Ventures $6,700.00 $0.00 $6,700.00
Bill Piechal $2,000.00 $0.00 $2,000.00


Cash donations

The following ballot question committees registered to oppose Issue 7 as of October 22, 2016. The chart below shows cash donations and expenditures current as of October 22, 2016. [16]

Committee Amount raised [33] Amount spent
Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana $48,200.00 $6,000.00
Family Council Action Committee $3,990.00 $7,491.42
Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities $6,635.29 $4,437.50
Total $58,825.29 $17,928.92
Top donors

As of October 22, 2016, the following were the top five donors in opposition to the initiative: [16]

Donor Cash In-kind Total
Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
ASAPAC (Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s PAC) [34] $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
Arkansas Heart Hospital $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
Stephens Investment Holdings LLC $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
Arkansas Hospital Association $5,000.00 $0.00 $5,000.00


To read Ballotpedia’s methodology for covering ballot measure campaign finance information, click here.


See also: 2016 ballot measure polls

  • Public Opinion Strategies polled 600 Arkansans in June 2016. The firm found 68 percent of respondents favoring 30 percent opposing Issue 7. [35]
  • In mid-September 2016, Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College conducted a poll that asked about support for Issue 7. The poll found 53 percent of respondents in opposition to Issue 7. [36]
  • On October 21, 2016, Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College surveyed 463 likely voters on Issue 7. Opponents had a 13 point lead over supporters in the poll. [37]
Arkansas Issue 7 (2016)
Poll Support Oppose Undecided Margin of error Sample size
Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College
40.0% 53.0% 7.0% +/-4.6 463
Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College
9/15/2016 – 9/17/2016
36.0% 53.0% 11.0% +/-3.4 831
Public Opinion Strategies
6/2/2016 – 6/6/2016
68.0% 30.0% 1.0% +/-4.0 600
AVERAGES 48% 45.33% 6.33% +/-4 631.33
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to [email protected]

  • Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College conducted a poll of 751 likely voters asking about the general issue of medical marijuana. The question was not specific to Issue 6 or Issue 7. The survey found support to be around 58 percent. [38]
Support for Medical Marijuana in Arkansas
Poll Support Oppose Undecided Margin of error Sample size
Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College
58.0% 34.0% 8.0% +/-3.6 751
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to [email protected]


Issue 5 (2012)

In 2012, Arkansans for Compassionate Care collected enough signatures to put an initiated state statute designed to legalize medical marijuana on the ballot. Under the measure, patients with possession of cards issued by the Arkansas Department of Health would have been allowed to purchase and carry marijuana for medical purposes. Medical marijuana would have been purchased from dispensaries or cultivated by the patients themselves from a cannabis plant. Patients would have been limited to a maximum of six plants per person. [39]

Voters narrowly defeated the proposal, which was titled Issue 5, with 51.44 percent voting “no” and 48.56 percent voting “yes.”

Medical marijuana

As of November 2020, 35 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 15 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes. [40] In one state—Idaho—medical marijuana was illegal, but the use of a specific brand of FDA-approved CDB, Epidiolex, was legal. On the map below, states shaded in dark red had passed laws permitting the use of medical marijuana. The states in pink allowed for the use of CBD in some circumstances but did not allow medical marijuana. The states in yellow did not allow medical marijuana and allowed only a specific brand of cannabis oil. The state shaded in gray—Nebraska—did not allow medical marijuana or the use of any type of cannabis oil. [41] Based on 2019 population estimates, 67.5 percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction with access to medical marijuana.

Unique instances

Idaho: In 2015, the Idaho State Legislature passed a bill legalizing certain types of CBD oil that was later vetoed by Governor Butch Otter (R). In response, Otter issued an executive order allowing children with intractable epilepsy to use Epidiolex in certain circumstances. [42]

South Dakota: In 2019, the South Dakota State Legislature passed a bill amending one section of law by adding Epidiolex to its list of controlled substances. The bill also exempted CBD from the state’s definition of marijuana in that section. [43] Elsewhere in state law, CBD was not exempted from the definition of marijuana. This discrepancy led to confusion that left the legal status of CBD in the state unclear for a year. [44]

After the 2019 changes, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) issued a statement, wherein he argued all forms of CBD oil, apart from Epidiolex, were illegal under state law. [45] Several state’s attorneys expressed disagreement with the Attorney General’s statements. Aaron McGown and Tom Wollman, state’s attorneys for Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, respectively, issued a joint statement where they said the discrepancy left legality open to differing interpretations. Mark Vargo, the Pennington County state’s attorney, said his office would not prosecute CBD cases based on his interpretation of the state law. [44]

On March 27, 2020, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed House Bill 1008 into law, which legalized industrial hemp and CBD oil in the state. [46]

Path to the ballot

Supporters of the measure, an initiated state statute, had until July 8, 2016, to submit 67,887 valid signatures. Further, proponents were required to collect signatures equaling at least 5 percent of the previous gubernatorial votes in at least 15 of the state’s counties. For example, if 1,000 people voted for governor in a county, the signatures of 50 qualified electors would be required. This initiative was cleared for circulation in 2014.

Supporters submitted over 117,000 signatures on June 20, 2016. [47]

On July 7, 2016, the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office confirmed 77,516 verified signatures were submitted to certify the measure for the ballot. [48] [49]

Cost of signature collection:
Sponsors of the measure hired individuals to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $49,013.65 was spent to collect the 67,887 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $0.72.


Lawsuits overview
First lawsuit
Issue: Alleged biased ballot title language
Court: Arkansas Supreme Court
Ruling: Ruled in favor of defendants, keeping measure on the ballot
Plaintiff(s): Dr. Melanie Conway and Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana Defendant(s): Secretary of State Mark Martin
Plaintiff argument:
Ballot title contains biased and misleading language and omits facts about the measure
Defendant argument:
Ballot title is unbiased and objective
Second lawsuit
Issue: Deficient petitions
Court: Arkansas Supreme Court
Ruling: Ruled in favor of plaintiff, removing the measure on the ballot
Plaintiff(s): Kara Benca Defendant(s): Secretary of State Mark Martin
Plaintiff arguments:
Missing information about canvassers and irregularities with signers of the petitions
Defendant arguments:
Petitions were certified as valid

Sources: Arkansas Supreme Court (Conway v. Martin) and Arkansas Supreme Court (Benca v. Martin)

Conway v. Martin

Melanie Conway and Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana filed litigation against Secretary of State Mark Martin on August 24, 2016. Plaintiffs asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to strike Issue 7 from the November 2016 ballot. Conway made five allegations against the ballot title. First, she alleged the ballot title misled voters into thinking the initiative limits the use of marijuana. Second, she claimed the initiative would lead to unlimited “cannabis care centers,” whereas the title said the number would be limited. Third, the title gave the impression that all marijuana would be tested when homegrown marijuana would not be. Fourth, the plaintiffs argued the title did not tell voters that cannabis care centers would be permitted to sell food and drinks containing marijuana. Fifth, Conway said the ballot title should have disclosed more on the initiative’s effects on landlords, employers, churches, and schools. Lastly, the plaintiffs alleged the ballot title sounded partisan. [50]

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendants on September 22, 2016. Therefore, Issue 7 remained on the ballot. Associate Justice Jo Hart wrote, “It is not required that the ballot title contain a synopsis of the statute; it is sufficient for the title to be complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import of the proposed law. … (A) ballot title need not include every possible consequence or impact of a proposed measure, and it need not cover or anticipate every possible legal argument the proposed measure might evoke.” [51]

Benca v. Martin

Kara Benca, a pro-legalization lawyer, filed litigation against Secretary of State Mark Martin on September 19, 2016. Benca argued that 15,000 signatures collected for Issue 7 were improperly counted by the Office of the Arkansas Secretary of State. David Couch, sponsor of competing measure Issue 6, said he provided Benca with some information. [52] The Arkansas Supreme Court appointed John Robbins as a special master judge to investigate the claim of invalid signatures. [53]

On September 27, 2016, Judge John Robbins disqualified 2,087 signatures, leaving the total number of signatures at 75,429. As the initiative needed 67,887 valid signatures, Issue 7 still had more than enough signatures to remain on the ballot. [54] [55]

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot on October 27, 2016, disagreeing with much of the master judge’s conclusions. The court explained the disagreement, saying, “… our standard of review is that we will accept the master’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.” In a five-to-two ruling, the court invalidated 12,104 signatures, bringing the total number of valid signatures down to 65,412 or 2,465 less than the 67,887 required for certification. [1]

The court agreed with Benca that 8,620 signatures were invalid because the measure’s sponsors failed to conduct state police background checks within 30 days prior to registering them or failed to properly follow paid canvasser requirements. Another 3,329 signatures were disqualified because residential addresses of the canvassers were not included on petitions, as required by state law. The court determined that P.O. box addresses and business addresses were not equivalent to residential addresses. An additional 104 signatures were disqualified because some canvassers verified petitions before voters signed them. [1]

Justice Howard Brill dissented from the court’s ruling, stating, “The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted.” [56]

David Couch, sponsor of competing marijuana initiative Issue 6, called the ruling “bittersweet.” He believed the ruling helped his proposal by eliminating voter confusion about the two measures. [57]

Benca & Benca’s response to Benca v. Martin

Kara Benca, the plaintiff in Benca v. Martin, and her husband, Patrick Benca, own the law firm Benca & Benca based in Little Rock. On October 28, Patrick Benca explained his firm’s motivation in challenging Issue 7. The following is an excerpt from his statement: [58]

As most of you know, in 2012 medical marijuana was on the ballot. . However, come Election Day 2012, the votes weren’t there and the marijuana initiative was defeated. It begged the question – how did it not pass when their polling suggested it would. David and Melissa polled the issue with those who voted and found that some Arkansans were not comfortable with the “self-grow” provision in the ballot measure. This self-grow provision would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they fell outside a defined zone from a dispensary. Kara and I are in support of this provision. However, since it killed the opportunity to get the much needed medicine to patients in 2012, it was deemed problematic. .

Regarding Issue 7, it was discovered very early on that the ballot measure was collecting signatures in violation of Arkansas law. This was a huge concern as it could (and eventually did) result in the ballot measure being defeated even before votes would be counted. .

We challenged Issue 7 for the above reasons. In sum: 1) it was going to get a challenge from opponents of medical marijuana and we didn’t want those opponents to have a win and a platform on the medical marijuana issue; 2) Issue 6 (the amendment) is better law and keeps the nuts and bolts of implementation out of law maker’s hands; and 3) the most important issue – it literally clears the way for those patients in need to get the drug nearly immediately after its passage. Something that was not likely with Issue 7.

The biggest question of all – what if Issue 6 was not on the ballot? Issue 7 would have been challenged, as we knew it would, and we knew the result, which would have been – no medical marijuana again in 2016. That is why Issue 6 is on the ballot because the sponsors knew that Issue 7 was going to get challenged and any challenge would have, and did, succeed. Without Issue 6, patients would then be left out on a limb. As passionate advocates for medical marijuana, Kara and I could not let that happen. We could not let opponents of medical marijuana successfully challenge Issue 7 because of the grave consequences it would have on medical marijuana as a whole. .

When deciding to find a person to be the petitioner for the challenge, we had the option of putting actual patients, doctors, and other supporters as the “Petitioner.” We did not want patients or doctors or others to be on the receiving end of unfair criticism. These were the people we wanted to protect. So, Kara unflinchingly signed up. That said, she, nor I understood the consequences of that decision. You all are very passionate, and rightfully so, but there is no justification for making the threats that are being made against her, myself, or our children, or saying the hateful things that are being said to all of us. .

I also want to clear up another issue. Our petition was filed at the earliest possible time we could in following the statutes and rules. We did not delay and/or wait until the last minute. We filed it as soon as we legally could. The delay is the responsibility of our law makers. The ballots were printed prior to us even getting into a courtroom to make our challenges. For those who are frustrated that “your vote didn’t count,” you have good reason to be frustrated. You have been disenfranchised, in my opinion. This is not the fault of Kara or I, nor is it the fault of the Arkansas Supreme Court. [9]

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s response to Benca v. Martin

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), an opponent of Issue 7, suggested the Arkansas Legislature develop a constitutional amendment that would move the deadline for signature petitions to an earlier date. He expressed concern that the multiple decertified initiatives on the ballot would confuse voters at the ballot box. By moving the deadline to an earlier date, the courts would not need to make decisions as close to an election. [59] [60] If the legislature follows the governor’s suggestion, a constitutional amendment would have to be referred to the ballot and approved by voters.

Related measures

The first attempt to legalize marijuana through the initiative process came in 1972, when California activists got an initiative certified for the ballot. The measure was defeated. Marijuana legalization advocates had their breakthrough election in 2012, when both Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Oregonians rejected a legalization measure that same year, but approved one two years later in 2014. As of the beginning of 2016, recreational marijuana had been legalized in four states and Washington, D.C. All legalizations came through the initiative process. As of the beginning of 2016, medical marijuana was legal in 25 states. [61]

More than 60 statewide marijuana-related initiatives were submitted for the 2016 ballot. The table below shows the marijuana-related measures that qualified for the 2016 election ballot:

Marijuana measures on the ballot in 2016
State Measures
Arizona Arizona Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 205 d
Arkansas Arkansas Medical Marijuana, Issue 6 a
California California Proposition 64, California Marijuana Legalization a
Florida Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization, Amendment 2 a
Maine Maine Marijuana Legalization, Question 1 a
Massachusetts Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization, Question 4 a
Montana Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, I-182 a
Nevada Nevada Marijuana Legalization, Question 2 a
North Dakota North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization, Initiated Statutory Measure 5 a

The following table includes past initiative attempts in the United States to legalize marijuana:

State Year Measure Status
Arizona 2016 Proposition 205 d
California 2016 Proposition 64 a
Maine 2016 Question 1 a
Massachusetts 2016 Question 4 a
Nevada 2016 Question 2 a
Ohio 2015 Legalization Initiative d
Alaska 2014 Ballot Measure 2 a
Oregon 2014 Measure 91 a
Washington, D.C. 2014 Initiative 71 a
Colorado 2012 Amendment 64 a
Oregon 2012 Measure 80 d
Washington 2012 Initiative 502 a
California 2010 Proposition 19 d
Nevada 2006 Question 7 d
Alaska 2004 Measure 2 d
Nevada 2002 Question 9 d
California 1972 Proposition 19 d

State profile

Demographic data for Arkansas
Arkansas U.S.
Total population: 2,977,853 316,515,021
Land area (sq mi): 52,035 3,531,905
Race and ethnicity**
White: 78% 73.6%
Black/African American: 15.5% 12.6%
Asian: 1.4% 5.1%
Native American: 0.6% 0.8%
Pacific Islander: 0.2% 0.2%
Two or more: 2.1% 3%
Hispanic/Latino: 6.9% 17.1%
High school graduation rate: 84.8% 86.7%
College graduation rate: 21.1% 29.8%
Median household income: $41,371 $53,889
Persons below poverty level: 22.9% 11.3%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “American Community Survey” (5-year estimates 2010-2015)
Click here for more information on the 2020 census and here for more on its impact on the redistricting process in Arkansas. **Note: Percentages for race and ethnicity may add up to more than 100 percent because respondents may report more than one race and the Hispanic/Latino ethnicity may be selected in conjunction with any race. Read more about race and ethnicity in the census here.

Presidential voting pattern

Arkansas voted Republican in all five presidential elections between 2000 and 2016.

Pivot Counties (2016)

Ballotpedia identified 206 counties that voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012. Collectively, Trump won these Pivot Counties by more than 580,000 votes. Of these 206 counties, one is located in Arkansas, accounting for 0.5 percent of the total pivot counties. [62]

More Arkansas coverage on Ballotpedia

Recent news

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