Both state and federal laws regulate marijuana possession, sale, and cultivation.
Arkansas classifies marijuana as a Schedule VI substance. It's illegal to possess, sell, deliver, or cultivate marijuana in Arkansas (with limited exceptions for medical marijuana). Penalties for marijuana-related crimes range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class Y felony, with potential punishments listed below (see section on Penalties).
(Ark. Const. amend. 98; Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-64-214, -215 (2019).)
The punishment for possession of marijuana depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession and whether the defendant has any prior convictions for possession of Schedule VI controlled substances. (In addition to marijuana, other Schedule VI drugs include salvia divinorum and synthetic cannabinoids.)
The following penalties apply to marijuana possession.
(Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-4-401, 5-64-419, 5-64-440 (2019).)
Arkansas criminalizes the delivery (sale), cultivation, and trafficking of marijuana.
Marijuana delivery and cultivation crimes are punished based on the amount of the substance involved:
Delivery, cultivation, or possession of 500 pounds or more of marijuana is considered trafficking, a Class Y felony.
Additional penalties apply for delivery of marijuana to a minor (younger than 18). Depending on the circumstances, the court may double or add ten years to the underlying sentence.
(Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-4-401, 5-64-406, 5-64-436, 5-64-438, 5-64-439, 5-64-440 (2019).)
Arkansas makes it illegal to use drug paraphernalia or possess drug paraphernalia with intent to use it. Paraphernalia includes items that are used to:
It’s also a crime to deliver drug paraphernalia to a person under age 18 who is at least three years younger than the defendant. If the drug paraphernalia is delivered in furtherance of a felony violation, the offense is a Class B felony. In all other cases, it’s a Class A misdemeanor.
(Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-64-443, 5-64-444 (2019).)
Penalties for marijuana-related crimes range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class Y felony with the following potential punishments.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-401 (2019).)
Arkansas law provides enhanced penalties for marijuana crimes involving the following circumstances.
The law allows extended terms of imprisonment for defendants with prior felony convictions and a doubling of a sentence for defendants with prior drug convictions involving marijuana, hallucinogens, narcotics, depressants, or stimulants.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-501, 5-64-408 (2019).)
A defendant convicted of possession of marijuana in a state, county, city, or juvenile detention facility will be punished under the next higher criminal classification.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-419 (2019).)
Arkansas permits an additional ten years’ incarceration for delivery, cultivation, trafficking, and class C or higher possession crimes committed within 1,000 feet of these facilities:
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-411 (2019).)
Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise is an unclassified felony. A “continuing criminal enterprise” occurs when a defendant derives substantial income from an enterprise carried out with at least five other people and involving in the commission of a series of two or more felonies.
Defendants face a sentence that is twice that of the underlying crime. The penalty for a second conviction is incarceration for a period that is three times that of the underlying crime.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-405 (2019).)
In 2016, Arkansas voters passed the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment” to the state’s constitution. The law provides that qualifying patients (and their designated caregivers) who have a state registry identification card cannot be arrested or prosecuted for medical use of marijuana as permitted by law.
The amendment does not permit possession or use of medical marijuana in designated areas (daycares, schools, community centers), on school buses or public transportation, or in public. It also remains illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.
The amendment acknowledges that federal law still prohibits marijuana use, possession, and distribution. For more on the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, read Medical Marijuana and Federal Law.
If you’ve been charged or cited for a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Marijuana offenses carry serious penalties in Arkansas, including stiff prison sentences. An attorney can explain the law, advise you of your options, and defend your rights in a criminal case.