2019 Session: Bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana pulled for further study

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Update:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the Natural State stalls in committee Thursday.

Under the bill, possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would go from a misdemeanor to a violation in Arkansas, punishable by up to a $200 fine.

Multiple lawmakers shared concerns regarding the bill’s fiscal impact and the health effects of marijuana during the House Judiciary Committee meeting. However, its sponsor argued nearly have the states in the country have similar laws on the books.

“Our police departments across this nation, across this state, across our cities have spent more time, more energy, more money enforcing and arresting those for simple possession than for those who are manufacturing, distributing and committing violent crimes,” St. Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, told the committee. 

Rep. Blake ended up pulling down the bill to refer to interim study, meaning it could come back in two years for the next legislative session. 

Original story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new bill filed Monday would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the Natural State. 

Possession of less than four ounces of marijuana is currently a Class A misdemeanor, a crime punishable by up to a year in jail. 

Under House Bill 1972, possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would go from a misdemeanor to a violation in Arkansas, punishable by up to a $200 fine.

The violation would also not be considered a previous conviction. State law currently makes four previous convictions of one to four ounces of marijuana a Class D felony.

One of the bill’s sponsors, St. Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, said it will run for the first time in committee this week.

The legislature is trying to wrap up the session by April 12.  

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