Cannabis has a complex history in Arkansas, with the state having both legalized and criminalized the use of the plant at various times throughout its history.
In the early 20th century, cannabis was legal in Arkansas, with doctors prescribing it as a treatment for a variety of ailments. However, by the 1920s, fears about the drug's supposed harmful effects began to grow, and in 1923, the state legislature passed a law criminalizing its possession and sale.
Despite this, cannabis use continued to be relatively common in Arkansas, especially among African American communities, who often used the drug recreationally or as a medicine. In the 1960s, during the countercultural movement, cannabis use became more widespread across the United States, and Arkansas was no exception.
In 1971, Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers signed a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, making the offense punishable by a small fine rather than jail time. However, this law was later repealed in 1973 after opposition from law enforcement and other conservative groups.
Today, medical marijuana is legal in Arkansas, with the state passing a medical marijuana amendment to its constitution in 2016. This allows patients with qualifying medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. However, recreational use of the drug remains illegal in the state, with possession of small amounts punishable by a fine and larger amounts treated as a felony offense.