Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association still planning justice agenda, details to come November 22, 2022 By Griffin Coop The state cannabis industry association plans to pursue a push for legislative changes similar to those announced by President Joe Biden on the federal level, but the details have yet to be worked out, according to the group’s executive director. The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association announced earlier this month that it was committed to “pursuing restorative justice legislation” in the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 9. Bill Paschall, executive director of the organization, said Monday the proposed legislation will likely be similar to what Biden announced last month. “We are still committed to introducing legislation for restorative justice, but what shape and form that will take, that’s yet to be determined,” Paschall said. “It’s going to be similar to what President Biden tried to do on the federal level, which is take away the stigma from those who have been arrested for nonviolent small possession [of marijuana].” The association announced its intention to pursue restorative justice during the final stages of the campaign for the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, which failed by a vote of 56.27% to 43.73%. Paschall said the association learned during the campaign that restorative justice is something that is important to people in Arkansas. The amendment that failed at the ballot box earlier this month did not expunge any past convictions. The next General Assembly will be overwhelmingly Republican with Republicans holding 81 or 82 of the seats in the 100-member state House and 29 of the seats in the 35-member state Senate. Are there any legislators who will be in favor of restorative justice for cannabis offenders? “Yeah, I think there are,” Paschall said. “We haven’t started shopping it with any legislator yet but there are legislators that we know care about the issue, that spoke about it during the campaign. There will be some folks that are interested in seeing the legislation and probably some that will be interested in carrying it.” On Oct. 4, Biden pardoned simple federal marijuana possession offenses and directed his administration to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Biden also urged governors to follow suit at the state level, but Governor Hutchinson said he did not support issuing “blanket pardons to those who have been convicted of these types of crimes.” Hutchinson said he has pardoned hundreds of Arkansans who have been convicted of drug offenses and said each case should be reviewed individually. Governor-elect Sarah Sanders has not commented publicly on Biden’s announcement. Marijuana convictions can have dire and long-lasting consequences, according to Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. People convicted of these crimes, even on a first offense, can face loss of employment, loss of child custody, removal from subsidized housing, loss of student aid, loss of voting privileges, loss of adoption rights and loss of some federal welfare benefits such as food stamps, Armentano said via email. Police make hundreds of thousands of arrests for marijuana-related violations each year, more than 90% of which are for possession, Armentano said. In Arkansas, police have made tens of thousands of arrests for marijuana in recent years, according to data from NORML. Last month, Arkansas Department of Corrections spokeswoman Cindy Murphy told Arkansas Cannabiz there were nine individuals currently incarcerated at facilities within the department or at Arkansas Community Correction Centers for possession of “small weights” of marijuana. The department defined “small weight” as less than 100 pounds. Another 57 individuals were on community supervision such as parole, probation or suspended sentence, she said.